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</STRONG></DIV><H1>Setting Up a Planted Tank!</H1><DIV </a></DIV><DIV id=Qtextbox><P><STRONG>Author: hyperdive</STRONG><BR><BR>I'm considering setting up a planted tank with a metal halide light and possibly some direct sunlight, mainly for nitrate reduction on my system. I was considering doing it in the mini reef sump, but I think a 4 footer would be better.

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The questions I have are:

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1. Will a 4x14x20 tank filled with plants do much to reduce the nitrate levels of a 2000+ litre system?

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2. Will a 250 watt (GE MVR250) metal halide light be powerful enough and provide the right light to make the plants thrive?

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3. Would it be worth sitting the tank in front of a window to get the afternoon sun directly on the tank or would this be detrimental to the plants?

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4. What sort of plants would provide the best nitrate reduction (ie broad leafed, lots of small leaves etc)?

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5. What sort of substrate is best for the plants?

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6. Will nitrates and light alone be enough to feed the plants or will I need to add another form of nutrition?

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7. What sort of clean up crew would do well in the tank? I was thinking bristlenose, but would they eat the leaves? Failing a good colony option, maybe use it as a fry growout tank?

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8. Is it worth putting bunches of plants in pots to keep them closer to the surface, or even using floating weed?

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If I think of anything else I'll add it.

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Thanks folks.

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</P></DIV><H2>Replies »</H2><DIV id=Atextbox><P><STRONG>Author: Snigglyfox</STRONG><BR><BR>I'm no expert but here is what I think.

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- The plants will definitely remove nitrates.

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- Sunlight will encourage algae and make temperature flucuate

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- Fast growing plants will absorb the most nitrates. I'd recommend wysteria, India Star or duck weed (but it get's real annoying at cleaning time).

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- I find Swords, Lotuses, anubias and larger plant appreciate root tabs rather than liquid foods (include nitrates).

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- I use bristlenoses, whiptails, SAE's and ottos,

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- Pots are good if you're moving things around or you like vacuuming a lot. I'm too lazy personally.

</P></DIV><DIV id=Atextbox><P><STRONG>Author: griffin</STRONG><BR><BR>I'm really not the one to give advice on planted tanks as I've never done to well with them but one point I will make:

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We've got a 2ft tank which runs off a corner filter and an UG with crushed coral substrate. Despite being a very basic tank it has for quite some time been our best and most reliable tank for raising very delicate Tang fry/species, a great place to "nurture" them if necessary to get them really thriving.

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I've put this down to the fact that the tank has a clump of java moss in it that grows really well, I have always assumed that it's removing nitrates and thus making a good environment for Tangs which are quite sensitive to nitrate. We are now moving to plenums in 2 of our 5x2x2's, will see how they compare to 2 other 5x2x2 Tang tanks without plenums.

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So for good nitrate removal fast growing "weedy" species are probably best I would guess.

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Cheers,

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Jess

</P></DIV><DIV id=Atextbox><P><STRONG>Author: hungsta</STRONG><BR><BR>substrate-you can get fluorite or cheaper alternatives like laterite, peat or even soil (depends on you)

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plants-something like java fern (windelov one looks nice), java moss are good (i prefer willow moss) vals are very good at nitrate removal...

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Is this tank primarily setup to remove nitrate?

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If so then get the typical weed-like plants and a bunch of bn, the tank will be great as a grow out tank too.

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If not then, you must consider co2, without it the range of plants that you can keep is limited.

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HTH

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</P></DIV><DIV id=Atextbox><P><STRONG>Author: hyperdive</STRONG><BR><BR>Thanks guys.

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I'm not interested in a pretty tank. The tank will be set up purely for nitrate reduction. If it's ugly I don't care as long as it works. I'm not keen to add CO2 if possible so plants that will thrive on nitrates and fish waste are all I need.

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</P></DIV><DIV id=Atextbox><P><STRONG>Author: kevkoi</STRONG><BR><BR>Pack it chock full of val (thick val, thin val) and u'll have a fast growing plant that can tolerate your alkali conditions and takes nitrates out of the water. Only trouble is u've got to keep trimming them back at the surface. As long as u've got good light, add a root tablet once in a blue moon, the val will grow and nitrates would be low.

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</P></DIV><DIV id=Atextbox><P><STRONG>Author: Rumpig</STRONG><BR><BR>Gidday Andy,

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I use Java moss in my sump, it seems to work really well. I occasionally pull it all out, wash it out and cull it. It also thrives under 24hr lighting (which kills most other plants).

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How are you thinking of setting it up?

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Are you having plants in your sump or in a seperate tank that is in between your mini-reef and pump.

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A tank of that size will make a big difference Andy.

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If you are having plants in your sump maybe concider having dividers in it to channel the water flow so it doesn't just take the shortest route between the outlet of the bio-tower and the pump intake. This will make the water flow through more plants and therefore increase the amount of nitrates that can be removed.

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If you have the space try having a full tank joined to the sump by a hose or something and have the pump in this tank, this will allow you to have substrate inwhich to plant your plants in (allows the growth of taller plants such as wisteria and val) and also you can use it as a grow out tank (depending on whether or not you have protected your pump so it cannot eat all your fry)

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Jess, I couldn't agree more! Having java moss in a fry tank makes a huge difference! Not only does it absorb nitrates but the fry also seem to feed off it. I find it invaluable.

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Duck weed is pretty useless IMHO as it is only a surface plant and therefore absorbs less nitrates than other plants that utilise the entire water coloumn. It is also really messy and will infest other tanks.

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Mick

</P></DIV><DIV id=Atextbox><P><STRONG>Author: hyperdive</STRONG><BR><BR>I am planning on using a 4 footer that is just part of the system. I'll increase the water flow to it as well to turn over more water.

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I'd really like to know whether to just put it in front of a window to get the afternoon sunlight or whether to use the 250w MH light.

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The water will come straight from the sump and back into the other end of the minireef, so there will be less nitrates going through the minireef, hopefully bringing the total amount down in the system.

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Does anyone have a heap of val to sell me or swap for fish?

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</P></DIV><DIV id=Atextbox><P><STRONG>Author: c2105208</STRONG><BR><BR>G'day Andy,

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Don't have much time at the moment to write a lengthy reply but I did think it necessary to comment on one major aspect - you are not keen for Co2 induction, however I can tell you now that to have any reasonable growth of plants to consume nutrients, you must have the right amount of *all* nutrients there to start with. This means that you will have to maintain high levels of CO2 as well as Iron and all of the other nutrients.

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As you could imagine, keeping CO2 levels at the necessary levels in a 2000L system could be extremely expensive and difficult! Dont' believe people that will tell you that just use Val or something similar as it has not got difficult requirements - *all* plants require *all* of the nutrients. The only way to significantly reduce nitrates on a stocked system on that size would to have one VERY densely planted 4' tank (if you are using a 4') and maintain CO2, lighting and iron, potassium (etc) levels. If plants are not growing, they are not producing biomass, therefore not consuming nutrients (the whole goal of the system in the first place) - therefore you need to keep them growing very quicklly to consume a decent amount of nutrients at the right levels. This means supplying the range of nutrients that are not in excess (i.e. in your system nitrate, or a form of nitrogen is in excess). What I'm getting at, is that to maintain a densely planted tank where you will notice the nitrate reduction is to have high concentration levels of CO2, iron, potassium and other micro and macro nutrients in order to grow the plants at any decent rate.

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Not saying it can't be done, it's very possible. However there is a greater picture of the practicality and logistics of if to think of I suppose. Personally I would just maintain water changes mate

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Cheers,

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Adam

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</P></DIV><DIV id=Atextbox><P><STRONG>Author: scurge19</STRONG><BR><BR>Andy,

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Since you said the look of the tank doesn't matter to you at all, I think this could be done quite easily.

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The type of plants you want to have are ones which grow fast; stem plants, vallis and amazon swords come to mind. CO2 is not essential at all. My planted tank has no CO2 and is going great, it could be better, but still the growth is so fast I have to clean it out every 2-3 weeks and there is like a bucket full of plants after cleaning. If you want CO2 do a DIY one, they are very easy.

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Direct or natural sunlight will be bad for your plants and will only cause algae problems. With your metal halide light alone, that will be more than plenty.. I even think it is too much and is asking for algae troubles.

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I don't really see the point of this though... water changes and good filtration will do exactly the same thing as the plants will do and is much easier to do IMO.

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Make a visit to www.thekrib.com and you will finf all your answers there regarding plants, CO2, virtually anything to do with planted tanks.

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Oh ye, I do have a heap of val if you want

</P></DIV><DIV id=Atextbox><P><STRONG>Author: griffin</STRONG><BR><BR>Andy - if you do end up doing CO2 injection into the system I remember that Sabine did a talk on a beautiful planted tank she has....it a had a very simple CO2 generating system in it that required very little maintenance and was simple and cheap to make. Maybe she could give you some details about it?

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Cheers,

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Jess

</P></DIV><DIV id=Atextbox><P><STRONG>Author: MagicaDiSpell</STRONG><BR><BR>Thanks for the compliment, Jess. The CO2 system I am using is ultra-simple (even I can manage it, despite kids and work - lol). All you need is a 2 l PET bottle, airhose and an airstone, some sugar, water and most importantly yeast. My setup lasts about 10 days. And it works a charm in combination with fast growing plants (that's really important for nitrate removal) and fertilising with some aquatic plant fertiliser (I use Seachem flourish and flourish iron).

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Andy, to give you an idea how well this works for nitrate removal: I feed my fish twice a day and change about 20% water every week or two (or whenever I get around to it) and I cannot measure any nitrate in the water.

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To answer some of your other questions:

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I am not sure about the halide lights. They may be too powerful for plants, and I am not sure if they have the correct spectrum. Sunlight may cause temperature fluctuations, but does not cause algal blooms, as long as you keep the plants fertilised.

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Java moss is a good grower, but beware, that it can invade filter inlets etc and become a nuisance (unless that is what you are after). I have never minded, I just keep pulling it out, but other people just hate doing that. Java moss and java fern both have the advantage that fish don't like to eat them very much.

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The cleanup crew: bristlenoses are good, but they can get stuck into the plants. On the other hand, hopefully your plants will be growing at such a rate, that that wouldn't really matter (certainly is the case with me). But you could also use apple snails, they like algae, but leave plants alone and are very effective at finding food scraps. Mine used to beat the fronties to the food every time. Clown loaches are important for snail control and I found that they are ok even with apple snails, because they can really only get the small ones, and there are usually so many that losing a few doesn't matter much. I also found young gibbiceps very effective.

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If I think of anything else, I'll post it later.

</P></DIV><DIV id=Atextbox><P><STRONG>Author: hyperdive</STRONG><BR><BR>Good advice folks, keep it coming.

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By the way I'm not doing this to avoid water changes, but I need something else to supplement the changes. I'm currently changing at least 400 litres of water per week, so it should be plenty, but a few of the tanks are reasonably heavily stocked and I still cannot keep my nitrates below about 60 - 80 ppm. Luckily my nitrite readings are low.

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I don't want to change more than the 20 - 30% per week that I am currently doing, so I'm looking at alternatives.

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I do need to buy another test kit though, as I've read in a couple of places that the Wardley test kit has been known to show levels 10 times that of other brands such as seachem in the same tank.

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Maybe I'm stressing over nothing?

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What lighting would you all recommend then? I have a double 4ft flouro reflector which I could use for the tank if a certain flouro tube would be better than the MH light.

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</P></DIV><DIV id=Atextbox><P><STRONG>Author: MagicaDiSpell</STRONG><BR><BR>Hi Andy,

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I agree, you can't really stop changing water, because of all the other waste products that build up in the water, but you can definitely reduce the nitrates with plants.

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As to test kits, that's a difficult one, because they do have a use-by date and you never know just how long they have been sitting on the shelf. If you really want to be sure, I guess you could set up a test series with water with known levels of nitrates and then test them with your test kit. I guess you could get nitrates in some form or another from a hydroponics shop and just calculate how much you are adding to your test water.

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As for lighting, I use a double lighttube over the length of the tank. We use powerglow (I think), but they are very expensive and I am currently trying to find a cheaper alternative (there is an NEC tube, that is very good I hear - just not commonly available in 3ft, unfortunately, but 4" is available at Bunning's Warehouse).

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In regards to substrate, I like to use fine sand (the same I use for the fish), but I plant the plants in pots and then secure them from digging fish with pieces of lava rock or wood. Alternatively, you can also use a reasonably deep gravel bed and secure the plants somehow. The drawback is that a deep gravelbed will increase the biological oxygen demand (BOD) in the tank, and if for some reason your airpump fails, you could run into trouble in a heavily stocked tank (been there, done that and lost a lot of fish).

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Hope this helps a bit.

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</P></DIV><DIV id=Atextbox><P><STRONG>Author: mtchye</STRONG><BR><BR>1. Will a 4x14x20 tank filled with plants do much to reduce the nitrate levels of a 2000+ litre system?

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Answer is, it depends on how much growth the plants you keep have.

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2. Will a 250 watt (GE MVR250) metal halide light be powerful enough and provide the right light to make the plants thrive?

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A 250w metal halide will be enough light for that tank. Light spread may be a bit of a problem, but since its not for display, it should be OK. Expect better growth for plants under the light, as metal halides are more of a focused light compared to fluoros. Metal halide is better than fluoro, different colour temperatures/bulbs are mainly for your own preferences as far as colour rendition goes because for all intents and purposes your plants will not care, as long as they get enough intensity.

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3. Would it be worth sitting the tank in front of a window to get the afternoon sun directly on the tank or would this be detrimental to the plants?

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I have had good success with sunlight..

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! It may get the tank very hot in which case some species of plants may not like it. However, there really cannot be too much light within reason, ie not burning the tips of the plants. (which is possible when ppl have too much metal halide light etc)

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4. What sort of plants would provide the best nitrate reduction (ie broad leafed, lots of small leaves etc)?

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The fastest growing plants you can find. In general, the stem plants that do not grow extensive root systems seem to grow the fastest. Riccia also grows fast. Examples of possible stem plants are water sprite (Ceratopteris thalicitroides) and hygrophila species. I have had most success for speed of growth with Ceratopteris and ambulia (Limnophila sessiliflora). Wisteria has been mentioned and also grows well, but IME water sprite is similar and faster. Vallis is fast for ppl who don't supplement co2 because it can extract carbon to a certain extent from carbonates in the water, but its very slow compared to the faster growing stem plants.

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5. What sort of substrate is best for the plants?

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There are many good and better substrates for plants. BUT since you want the plants to take most of the nutrients from the water column, with correct species selection you should be able to use a plain fine gravel substrate. Additions of laterite etc are messier and not necessary for good growth out of the commoner stem plants. After all, you want them to take their nutrients out of the water column, don't you?

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6. Will nitrates and light alone be enough to feed the plants or will I need to add another form of nutrition?

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You will need to supplement other forms of nutrition to obtain the best growth. With high light and nitrates, the plants will get limited with some other form of nutrient FAST. Most probably first one to notice is iron, followed by the other trace nutrients, and possibly potassium depending on your water. CO2 supplementation is absolutely vital for your purposes. I am very sorry to sound opinionated, but it is well documented that growth with CO2 is phenomenally higher than without. Addition

of CO2 will not compete with nitrate reduction.

Without a carbon source your plants

will not be able to use nitrates!

Put it simply, each ppm of nitrate in the water will need a corresponding amount of carbon, potassium, phosphorous, iron and other trace elements to be uptook by the plants. If those are unavailable, plant growth will slow or even stop. This is not noticed by people using low light, no co2 setups because it is available in part from fish wastes and food. Use CO2! Many heavily planted tanks with adequate CO2 supplementation require nitrate ADDITION!

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7. What sort of clean up crew would do well in the tank? I was thinking bristlenose, but would they eat the leaves? Failing a good colony option, maybe use it as a fry growout tank?

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Bristlenose catfish will do well and do not harm the plants. Fry growout is also possible as long as its not a species that specifically digs alot or targets leaves to eat. Other algae targeting species include glass shrimp, SAE's, cherry barbs, otocinclus.. etc Apple snails are not as good as bristlenoses and I find that they do eat the plants more. Small bristlenoses are better than larger specimens, so it would be a good tank to grow out bristlenoses.

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8. Is it worth putting bunches of plants in pots to keep them closer to the surface, or even using floating weed?

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In that depth and width of tank, and with that amount of light, it would not be worth it using floating plants. They will block the light from plants on the bottom. To maximise the biomass of the plants, you want stem plants that will grow from all points from bottom to top.

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NB: Having said that, IF you really did not want to supplement CO2 into the water, plants grown emersed would grow much faster due to the higher CO2 concentration in the water. A shallow tank is more suitable for this purpose, though of course higher tanks don't hurt, and underneath the plants you can still grow out fry i guess. Plants that do well floating include Ceratopteris cornuta (broad leaved water sprite), Riccia fluitans, water lettuce, water hyacinth, and a terrestial creeping plant whose name eludes me. Some pond keepers keep plastic baskets on bricks to hold roots in the water while the leaves stay out. In these cases floating plants with heavier root formations are better than the aforementioned stem plants.

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CO2 is easy to setup using the yeast and sugar water method. In that volume of water and assuming that you have a fair amount of buffering capacity (kH) you will not need to worry about pH fluctuations. Though you will still need to do water changes, the lower long term nitrate levels in the water is usually considered to be beneficial in terms of growth rate and general health. Also, plants uptake ammonia and nitrite preferentially to nitrate, so if for some reason your biofiltration you have is taxed somehow, the plants will provide a safety buffer.

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Hope this long post helps Andy.. Good sources of information on this subject is the plant section of www.thekrib.com and you can also post a question to the aquatic plant mailing list. This topic has been covered there quite a bit, so you can also search their archives, though the search thing seems a little buggy. But I think i've summarised the important points there.. Light type not important, intensity important. CO2 important whether you get it from air or supplemented into the water for submersed plants.

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</STRONG><BR><BR>Sensational. Much appreciated.

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Can someone throw me a link to building the coke bottle CO2 injector?

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I'll search around for it myself, but there is usually always a better link somewhere....

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<P><STRONG>Author: MagicaDiSpell</STRONG><BR><BR>Mtchye,

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my hornwort grows at about 28?C, so I guess that's pretty warm. Interestingly it does really well in my South American tank (soft, acid water) but doesn't like it at all in my African tank, although I used to grow it there too. Hmmm!

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Andy,

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I don't think you have to wait 12 hours. I tend to connect the generator as soon as it has reached about room temperature (it sits on top of the tank, so there is no danger of it sucking water out of the tank during cooling) and it starts to bubble pretty well soon after, certainly 4 hours later.

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I use the dry yeast from the supermarket (and being a cheapscate, I buy the cheapest). I use 2/3 of cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of yeast and fill the 2 l bottle to the point where it narrows into the neck. That lasts about 10 days. I find, if I add less yeast, the CO2 generation is a little slow for my liking. I don't have a dish (like the sera system), my bubble just go to the surface. But the plants grow and despite 2 feeds a day I don't measure any nitrate in the water.

</P></DIV><H2>Replies »</H2><DIV id=Atextbox><P><STRONG>Author: hyperdive</STRONG><BR><BR>How much does CO2 lower the pH of the water in the tank?

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I doubt it would make too much difference on my whole system, but I'm still interested.

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</P></DIV><DIV id=Atextbox><P><STRONG>Author: mtchye</STRONG><BR><BR>Hmm 28c! Thats interesting lol.. and in your acidic tank too.. in alot of books it seems they are supposed to be good for harder and cooler water lol..

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Andy, CO2 affects the pH depending on how much buffering capacity (ie carbonates or kH) you have in the water. If you search thekrib.com you will find a table showing the relationship between ppm of CO2, kH, and pH.. With this table you can also calculate the ppm of CO2 you have by testing just the pH and kH. This will help you decide how many bottles you need. Ideally it should be around 20ppm.

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Letting it bubble to the surface is a little inefficient but still gets a bit of CO2 into the water.. making a reactor or something like a plastic 'chilli' takeaway container upside down would be better still... having a spare canister or powerhead would be best..

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I have a little upturned plastic container diameter around 5cm or so, cut a little nick in it and shove in a suction cap of some sort.. the gas will collect in there and if too much gathers, will simply bubble out the side.

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Still the most efficient way is with turbulent mixing in a reactor of some sort..

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