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.


Trying to fix plant melt

So, the symptoms are losing leaves, holes in leaves and plant leaves that become ‘skeleton’  like, pale, transparent and seem to melt away and die. Sometimes only the root is left.

This is the first case of plant melt I’ve had – the same plants were fine in my old tank … so what has changed? I scoured the internet to find out what to do.

What causes plant melt?

Well first time round, I had no problems.

Putting plants underwater

Apparently plants that grow above the water (with only the roots below – called emmersed plants) can melt when they are put under water completely (immersed). It’s the shock of adapting to water / gas exchange / C02 levels and new soil. Some plants are more susceptible.  They try and shed their old leaves and grow new ones which are used to being under water.

Since my Cryptocoryne costata and Anubias were already in my other tank, this can’t be the reason.  I read that sometimes the new shoots take over and the plant recovers.

Natural death

Also, plants don’t live forever – they can die naturally after a few years! I have no idea how old my plants were when I bought them – so it might even be natural!

Could it be low CO2?

Plants feed on CO2 – it is absorbed during photosynthesis in the daylight. Well actually – they don’t feed on it – more like they use CO2 and other nutrients to turn it into sugar – which is their energy food. At night, plants release CO2.  I have a low tech tank – which means I don’t add CO2 gas to the water. Maybe there isn’t enough in the water, or too much?

So what causes low CO2?

  • lots of plants using it up too quickly? – It’s not heavily planted so maybe not this.
  • Low flow – circulation is lacking a bit in my tank as the spray bar from the filter is higher up and not pushing much water around. A plant will take up C02 better in a good flow. Plants are supposed to waft gently in the water – mine don’t so I can try and alter the angle as it’s on maximum as it is.
  • High aeration causing the plants to use more CO2? – I certainly pushed a lot of oxygen into it in the first few weeks. Water agitation can ‘gas off’ the CO2 as well.
  • Weak light – they can’t photosynthesis well and are in a state of stress …. or maybe too much light and they are absorbing a lot of CO2 but it’s not enough to meet their growing needs?

The light is certainly not as good in this tank because it is higher up – but the plants I chose are low light plants and not super fast growers – so not sure about this one. If they haven’t got enough light they can’t make food!

I could try and increase C02 in the tank – or at least stabilise it as it appears to be more often a lack of C02 in relation to the amount of light.

I could reduce the light so they don’t photosynthesis as much (if that is even true) – but I’m not happy with the low light as it is!! Oh what to do. My gut feeling is not enough light. Altering the period of ‘on time’ for the light won’t work – as it’s the intensity of the light that needs to change – if it’s not strong enough you could leave it on 24 hrs a day and it would not work!

Could it be the soil or water they don’t like?

  • Large water changes altering the stability – only done one small water change so far, so I don’t think they are dropping leaves in the hope that new ones will cope with the new water.
  • Lack of nutrients in the soil or roots not getting to the soil – this is possible as I had to trim the mass of roots on the Crypt before I replanted them – but I left a lot more on it than I had originally. It doesn’t explain the other plants though.

Light bulb syndrome

I use a fluorescent light – apparently after around 12 months they can still be on but not putting out the right light frequency – possible.


All about shrimp tank 2

So a week last Monday was ‘Shrimp Day’. Here is what happened.

The all day (and half the night) process of setting up the new tank to replace the first was very exciting.



For tank 2 there were some key things I knew I wanted to do different – having learnt from tank one.

  • A bigger tank – only 5cm wider but around 10 cm taller.

The mantra seems to be the smaller the tank the harder it is to keep looking good.  It’s harder to landscape with plants, harder to do water changes without disturbing the layout, harder to maintain a stable temperature and water conditions, hard to clean/scrape – you get the idea. It’s HARD!!!

So, although this increase is only from a 25-30 litre tank – it feels like a massive amount of room – and looks so much bigger (but takes up very little desk space).

  • An aquascape (planting scheme) that doesn’t touch too many sides of the tank – so much nicer for water to flow round, shrimps to ‘do their thing’ and I’m hoping less algae and disturbance if I do have to scrape.
  • My filter is the same but this time the spray bar is about an inch above the water – so much better flow, not blocked by ‘stuff’.   Also, the empty water space above the plants has been changed from about an inch to a 2-3 inches. This gives lots of room to scoop out and replace water without knocking over ‘stuff’ in the tank.

Basically, it is less cluttered and designed to be easier to maintain. I can see my shrimps better and I’ve invested in a shrimp feeding tube to keep their food out of the substrate and on top of a rock.

The only down side, so far has been that the light no longer penetrates as well because the tank is taller – so will have to see how that goes. It definitely isn’t as well illuminated.

Tank Set Up.

1) Dennerle Nano Cube – 30 Litre tank – £37.99 from SwellUK

It’s a nice tank with curved front edges (that you can’t see in the picture), tested it out for leaks and was fine – bit messy on the silicone though and the glass top is very thin.

The glass top sits on plastic hangers – which were a very tight fit and I worried the glass would shatter. I have discarded the top and my husband made a new one to fit around the filter out of acrylic.















2) Same filter as last time

3) Some new wood and plants + old ones replanted – £40 approx

4) Rain water, filtered for large particles, boiled and remineralized.

4) Dennerle Scaper’s soil + topped with Fluval Shrimp Stratum

5) Same light

6) Same cooler

Set up:

It took all afternoon to set up and all evening to catch the shrimps and swap over the filter and cooler and take out the other tank. I had a plan and itemised the order of things to keep organised.

First the tank was tested for leaks within 24 hrs of it arriving (to enable a claim to be made if needed for a replacement). Then substrate was added (no washing needed apart from the Fluval topper) and the prepared water (boiled and remineralised) was added just so it soaked into the substrate to saturate it.

The shrimps were taken out of the old tank – well as many as possible and transferred to a net/fry box sitting in a bowl of water. I’ll review this later – but basically they got out of the net and into the bowl – some got stuck and that part was a bit of a nightmare. A thermometer was placed in to keep an eye on them.

Next the wood and plants were added to the new tank (the old one now became a swirling mess of remaining shrimp and soil).

Water was added – about another 4 inches.

We took down the old tank and closed down the cooler and filter. Water staying in that part of the circuit to keep the important filter bacteria wet and alive.  Next we carried in the new tank, connecting it up to the cooler and filter.

The old tank went into the kitchen so my husband could catch more baby shrimps – my motto is ‘leave no one behind’!!

So, the tank was then topped up to the top (gently and slowly pouring water in so as not to disturb the soil) and left for the evening to settle down.

I tested the water and the ammonia reading was really high – the soil leached a lot more than I thought it would. I dosed with Prime, added a top up of bacteria for the filter and in went the shrimp.

A few days later I dosed with AmGuard – for emergency ammonia removal as it was still showing up and my pH was above 7.

Than tank seems ok now, all shrimp (plus babies and berried females) survived and apart from the slight problem of floating wood (now held down by dragon stone) – the water is clear, the shrimp are happy and it’s looking great. Ammonia is reading zero and I feel relieved!

I will do a 25% water change next week, as soon as it rains to lower the Nitrate.

Next blog

Over the next weeks I will review how to catch shrimp – what worked well and what didn’t plus some of the equipment and test kits I used (and whether they were any good!).

You can also find out what happens when you drop a pot of shrimp remineralisation powder into a bowl of water…


How good looking is a shrimp?

Blue shrimp



Shrimp quality – colours and patterns of freshwater shrimp

About these shrimp

These are my three blue shrimp. The colour intensity, pattern, segments/leg colouring and tail variations are what make a shrimp a good one (and it’s pedigree). These were bought as ‘Dream Blue’ shrimp: Neocaridina davidi. [formally known as Neocaridina heteropoda Var. Blue Dream]

*Neocaridina is the genus and davidi is the species.

  • Males are generally smaller and paler than female shrimp.
  • These are still quite young and colour will enhance as they grow older, when they live in darker surroundings and if fed with good food.

These are C-SKY shrimp – the company is based in Taiwan and are experts in high quality shrimp, selling world wide.

I think they are also called Blue Velvet and Fantasy Blue or even Blue Velvet Jelly.

Video of my blue shrimp.

Unless they colour up I would say mine aren’t looking very medium to high grade! Also, I have searched the internet and nowhere can I find a Dream Blue with orange eyes (orange eyes seem to only be on Blue Tiger shrimp?). Maybe a Tiger made it into my batch – who knows! Maybe it’s a new shrimp and worth a fortune? Either way, he is here to stay.

Grades of shrimp

These little guys are a mutation of Rili shrimp (more about them another time) and vary a lot in the intensity and colouring.

From the highest to the lowest for Cherry shrimps – grades go something like this:

  • Painted Fire Red (no flaws, solid colour for body and legs)
  • Fire Red High
  • Fire Red Low
  • Sakura
  • Low (might have red spots or be colourless with colourless legs).

Mine are Sakura grade. This means, for example in a Cherry Red, I can expect most of the body and legs to be red, a few spots or stripes on part of their body for females, and males could be anywhere from colourless up to this grade.

Most people just want pretty shrimp, spotty, stripy – doesn’t really matter if they have a few ‘blemishes’ does it?


Shrimp day has arrived



Yesterday my shrimp arrived. 4 red Fire Sakura and 4 Orange Sakura. I ordered from Sharnbrook Shrimp which come next day delivery. Alas this meant getting up early at 9.45 and I just about made it our of the bathroom before the doorbell went!

Once they arrived, I had to check firstly that they were alive. They came double bagged in a polystyrene box for live shipments. It was good weather so they didn’t need a heat pack. It was 16 degrees in their water. They were all health and happy so the next step was to acclimatise them.

When you learn about shrimp, the first thing you discover is they are very sensitive to change in their water conditions – so new water parameters have to be introduced slowly.

My method 


I cut the bag as instructed (removing the outer bag and then ensured the cut let them float into the water rather than  be tipped). Some were a bit reluctant to go out and needed a bit of encouragement! I gave them a bit of cover and a rock to hide around and monitored the temperature.

I syringed out most of the water – so they just had enough in to cover them and feel comfy swimming around.

Once they had reached 23 (my tank temperature) I had to use a wheat back from the freezer to put around the bowl or they would have cooked in the sun!

It was fairly easy keeping them at a good temperature. I then spent nearly 7 hours, sitting with them, slowly dripping in tank water. It was too tricky to set up a drip feed from my tank so I did it manually. In between I did some paper crafting and my PA baked!

Eventually they were in two thirds tank water, so I took some out and slid them into the tank.

They are pretty hungry and munching my algae.

I put in a quarter of a dried Indian Almond Leaf (Catappa leaves) . This will soften up the water and provide some extra nutrition.

Keeping them cool


Kevin set up my cooler and made a nice little cupboard for it to stand on. I keep my most used shrimp things in the cupboard and the cooler is keeping them at 23-24 degrees C.

My cooler is pretty much the only one for a small tank that is available – D-D DC-300.  It moves 200 litres per hr (on minimum) so the filter has to be a bit stronger than that to push the water through (no motor on the cooler). My external filter just about does it on max. My room is regularly 24 degrees and tops 30 in the summer. Last year my shrimps were fried in the community tank when we had a heatwave just as we went on holiday!

When it comes on, it’s fairly noisy but within 20 seconds to a few minutes it cools it down to 23 and goes off again. It is a thousand times better than worrying how they are and running backwards and forwards with iced bottles to put in the tank.

Fans only drop the water by 2-3 degrees, so a cooler was the only option. They don’t need a heater at night neither so that’s good.

What else have I done since my last post?

I did a 3.5 day black out. We covered my tank in 5 bin liners to black it out. When they came off, all the brown algae on my leaves had died and the green algae (thread sort) was also mostly gone. I am keeping some algae in the tank for the shrimps so won’t aim to get rid of it all.

My water is crystal clear and so far so good.

The black out increased the PH a little and also Nitrates quite a bit – but that should now come back down.

My 11W light is now on a timer for 5 hours a day from 1-6 and bright sunshine during normal daylight hours (but not direct sun).


Aquascaping – my first planted tank for shrimp.


I used to have some freshwater shrimp (Neocaridina) in my community Biorb aquarium with my fish. However, they all died last summer in the heatwave and I missed watching them. They are such interactive little things, always busy and full of character so I decided to set up a tank especially for them.

I discovered something called aquascaping – creating landscapes and beautiful underwater habitats or scenes. Some of them are amazing – take a look at these!

I wanted a jungle theme and spent months reading and asking people who enjoy aquascaping and keeping shrimp. Hurrah for internet forums!!

My Tank set up

  • 25L Cube (Aquael tank) with tap water. (Less than 12 inch cube).
  • Low tech (No feeding with C02) and lightly planted
  • External filter – Eheim Aquacompact 60
  • Cooler – D-D DC300
  • Total costs of my tank (plus maintenance items, tools etc) £536
  • Shrimps …. to come!


Fluval Shrimp substrate on top of Tropica Plant Growth Substrate (Soil) in case I want to plant tanks into soil. Also some Unipac Granite Sand on the base perimeter to hide the soil somewhat.


Annubias (a plant that you tie to wood/stone (not planted), Java Moss, Weeping moss (Vesicularia Ferriei) and also another moss Taxiphyllum barbieri.


Redmoor Wood (to make the tree) and Red Canyon Rock, tank ornament and half a coconut shell.

I also bought various tubing, connectors, test kits, water syphon, starter bacteria to cycle to the tank and aquascaping tools.


Weekly maintenance: I plan to do 25% water change and some algae removal. I am using Purigen to help polish the water (makes it nice and clear and as if shrimp are swimming through air).

I hope to finish cycling this week, connect up the cooler and order my shrimp.

I might do some more blogs about the set up what I’ve learnt so far.