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New to planted tanks

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I'm currently thinking though the option of selling my malawi display tank to make room for a planted tank. I've seen some very nice pictures of planted tanks and would love to give it a go.

Just to be sure I am thinking along the right lines, could you all confirm/argue/discuss my current line of thinking please?

-I like the idea of a tank 4ft long 18wide and 2ft high. Is 2ft high too high for plants?

-I'm thinking of running 3x 4ft fluoro tubes under the hood. Would I need more than this for most normal plants? I'm really after a tank which is fairly easy to maintain (as far as planted tanks go) and am not too fussed if the plants I have are not rare and exciting, as long as they look good. I'd like a foreground grassy plant, something to grow on some wood or rocks, and some nice bunches at the sides and back.

-Fish I am considering would probably be some kind of tetra or barb. 15-20 small schooling fish. Sound good?

-Filtration would probably be a big-ish eheim canister or similar. I'm under the imression that surgace agitation is not desired because the plants need more Co2 than oxygen?

-How necessary or important are the fancy substrates which are around today? Same question for the ferts (dinosaur dung etc)

Thanks guys for any suggestions or discussions. I'm really at the planning stage here so I have plenty of room and time to change my way of thinking if I am planning it wrong in any way smile.gif

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So many questions baz. All my tanks are planted and you have probably seen the pictures. The first question every asks (even fish people like AMK who came over the other day) is wow, how much work to you have to do to keep it like that?

My answer is 'almost none aside from water changes'. My comments would be:

- Choose your plants carefully.

- Choose fully aquatic plants that are adapted to be growing all year round under water. (Many will grow under water for a year then die out because they are adapted to seasonal exposure to the air).

- Slow growing plants. You require lots of patience but the tank is much more manageable.

- Choose as low light plants as possible.

- 2 foot is OK. Low light plants will be fine without as low as .5W/L. Much lower and they grow slower.

- Use a trace element fertilizer. That's really all you need for low light plants. It also keeps the budget down as you only need to dose once a week.

- Make sure none of your fishes are plant nibblers (many fish will nibble plants even though it's not in the normal care sheet). You need to ask around but there are a lot of possibilities.

- you need a lot of patience. My tanks take about 6 months to get established.

- Filtration type does not seem to make any difference to me.

- You only need CO2 for faster growing plants. It can speed up slower plants but it's more trouble.

- Try and get plants that don't drop too many leaves.

I'll add more later with the types of plants I use and what else you need in the tank for a nice looking tank.

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Baz

good one mate, thanks for starting this thread off.

i,m also venturing into this realm. i've been slowly collecting plants and doing a lot of heavy reading, Amano, and Kassleman. i really recomend that you get a couple of good books. the basic "how to" books give a lot of eroenous information and just don't go far enough for me.

on the subject of lighting, this is a hot topic with most ppl. what works for some, is sure to fail for others. as i'm only technical atm, i can't argue the finer points, but experts say, you cannot put enough fluero's in a hood to replicate the sun, if your plants require shade, use a taller plant to shade the lower ones

any way i'm only just stating so i'll also be watching this with interest.

Mianos

ive been watching your tanks as well, they seem to be going good, some of your practises are a little out off left field, but they've obviously worked this far

thanks guys, good luck ;

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Hi Baz,

I've had a fairly well planted tank now for a few years. I've very recently redone my whole tank as much of the plants started dying to a very bad break out of black algae the ends up killing the plants it covers.

Some of the most fun I had when I originally got my 6x2x2 was investigating and researching the different plants around.

But it can be expensive fitting out a big tank with lots of plants.

Some things I've learnt: lighting is very important. I've set mine up at 0.5W/Ltr but I don't think that's the only measure to use by any means. It's the brightness of the bulbs you get that really adds value here as well. My bulbs vary in brightness from 10,000 Kelvin to 18,000 Kelvin.

Most LFS's have pretty much the same kind of plants available. The place I found with the best variety was Manly Aquarium World. It's an hour and a half drive for me to go and see them but I basically go to them when I'm looking to buy a mass of plants. As you're in the blue mountains I'm not sure how long a drive that could be for you.

The other thing I learnt was there's a big difference between the aquascaping with books such as Amano's and setting up a tank to be fish friendly and replicate your fishes natural habitat. For example, I've read some of Amano's judging comments for aquascaping competitions and he fries people for putting stem plants in the foreground. Me on the other hand, likes doing that because it looks more natural and provides cover for the fish all around the tank. The other big difference is to get tanks set up to look like Amanos, particularly with the very grassy for foregrounds as you indicated you like, is a lot of work. Especially as most "grassy" foreground plants need a lot of light. Otherwise they don't grow much at all, just stay in a clump or just die.

One other tip, if you get any java moss, be sure to be diligent in maintaining it. If you turn your back on it, it can take over very quickly.

p.

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Good on you guys for giving a planted tank a go ! I have no doubt that when you weigh it all up, planted tanks are the prettiest displays of all, even prettier than reef tanks IMO (but some may disagree on this). Stick with the low light plants and you can have a pretty nice tank without CO2. Despite some guys suggesting 0.5 watts/litre, I have seen some pretty nice plant tanks with 0.3 w/l. An example is 2 x 40 watt fluoros on a 4 x 18 x 18 tank is possible. Baz, 3 x 120cm fluoros is spot on for that tank. And cannister filters are the rule. Keep the outlet a few cm's under the surface to that there is slight surface movement, but not breaking the surface. if doing a smaller tank, say 60cm, internal filters are the go.

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Baz, 3 x 120cm fluoros is spot on for that tank.  And cannister filters are the rule.  Keep the outlet a few cm's under the surface to that there is slight surface movement, but not breaking the surface.  if doing a smaller tank, say 60cm, internal filters are the go.

Daniel, how do the different filters effect planted tanks?

BTW - I agree the 0.5W/Ltr rule is necessarily required. I used that in my tank in combination with very bright bulbs so I didn't ahve to limit my choice in plants to just very low-medium light plants. Plus I knew I was getting a lot of hairgrass and I knew they needed a lot of light to grow well.

Edited by parkap

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I agree that a really nice planted setup is more beautiful than a reef setup.

Us planted tank newbies will have to post pics of our progress. I have a tank with water only in it at the moment. It's in the process of cycling. When my lights arrive though I'll start planting and start a little progress thread.

Good luck you guys and thanks to the advice we have received,

Jamie.

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Us planted tank newbies will have to post pics of our progress. I have a tank with water only in it at the moment. It's in the process of cycling. When my lights arrive though I'll start planting and start a little progress thread.

I am looking forward to seeing that. Happy planting!

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how do the different filters effect planted tanks?

Filters in planted tanks mainly promote water circulation. There function as biological filters are less important as the plants remove most of the nitrogenous wastes.

Undergravels are not usually recommended as they provide poor water circulation and make it difficult to keep nutreints within the substrate.

Cannisters are usually prefered as the outlet can be adjusted to minimise surface agitation, this is only really relevant if you are adding CO2. Smaller tanks may get away with just a power head for circulation and no filtration at all.

Clearly your fish load will influence this.

Cheers

Brett

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“Cannisters are usually preferred as the outlet can be adjusted to minimise surface agitation, this is only really relevant if you are adding CO2”.

Brett, I think you typed this incorrectly. Cannisters will be significantly better in a non CO2 set up (I have tried this myself and a cannister produced much better results over wet dry and Aquaclear filters) whereas in a CO2 plant tank, it is less vital as any loss of CO2 through surface agitation is being replenished by CO2 fertilization. Off course, I would still use a cannister in a CO2 tank also. And when choosing a canister it is not like a Malawi set up where the more filtration the better, suggest canister size for plant tanks more towards the minimum.

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Thanks for all the feedback, and don't go anywhere because there will be plenty more questions to come smile.gif

I've also been looking at the new style tanks with a curved glass front and sides (no seams). If all you planted guys could choose your perfect tank for planting, how big and what dimensions would it be?

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I've also been looking at the new style tanks with a curved glass front and sides (no seams). If all you planted guys could choose your perfect tank for planting, how big and what dimensions would it be?

I would go with a standard 4ft, but the curved glass does look great but most have built in lighting units which are often not adequate for a nice (faster growing) tank. Also they are often difficult to modify or retrofit. A standard 4ft on the otherhand can have any lighting type you want.

You can have a great low light, slow growing planted tank, but if you go a step further and have better lighting and some co2, even DIY co2, you can have a stunner of a tank, as you have much more options to pick your plants. I was sceptical about using diy Co2 but it does make a real difference.

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Some notes which ive read and learnt through experience:

Lighting:

- more lighting you have. the more ferts and CO2 you will need, or else the algae will take over. Ideal is about 3wpgs (watts per gallon), depending on the plants you want to keep and the effort you want to go to.

- Ideal Color Index of bulbs for Plants is around 5000-6000Kelvins. If you get 10000K+, it will still work, but the plants wont benefit from it as much as 5000-6000K. Most people get the higher ones cause the color looks better (less yellow), or for marine applications.

Fertilizer:

- for premixed ferts, Seachem is the best. All plants need basic NPK (Nirtrates, Phosphates and Potassium) nutrients, and then trace elements added to that benefit them more (eg iron etc). Seachem Flourish is a great All-In-One liquid fertiliser to start of with, to keep things simple.

- You can dose NPK as dry fertilisers, whch you have to source from hydroponics stores. The dosing amounts can be found on planted tank forums, and mostly its trial and error, based on the results you see in your tank.

Substrate:

- Best to use is a nutrient enriched substrate (gravel) so that the rooted plants can benefit. Or you can use plain gravel and insert fertiliser tabs into the gravel every few months. If i had to do my tank again from scratch, i'd get Eco-Complete substrate (although its very expensive). That or Flourite (if i wanted a red color). Currently i use plain black gravel with Flourish fertiliser tabs insert into it.

CO2:

- You can go the DIY yeast+sugar method or perssurised. For a small tank DIY will suffice. I went DIY for a few months and then went pressurised. I would never go back to DIY now. Pressurised, though expensive at first, is very efficient in the long run. And it offers precise control of the CO2 levels. CO2 gas costs about $9 to refill a 500gram cylinder. And that will last you 3-4months depending on the output rate.

Filter:

- Canister is the prefered choice because it has the least surface agitation (Co2 loss), plus its very easy to deal with. HOB filters are okay if surface agitation (splash) is kept to a minimum. Sumps are not reccomended due to water agitation in sumps and exposure to air.

Plants:

- Anubis, Java Ferns, Java Moss are the easiest to keep. Vals are also quite easy to keep. Swords and Crypts require a nutrient rich substrate, but fert tabs do just fine. I've had Swords thriving in my tank with just fert tabs in plain gravel.

- The redder (is that a word? heh) a plant is, the more light it will need to survive. There a lots of sites on the net with plant guides that show how much light a plant will need and other care info.

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Thanks for that RK, you've summed up a lot of points and made it very easy to read and understand smile.gif

I would go with a standard 4ft, but the curved glass does look great but most have built in lighting units which are often not adequate for a nice (faster growing) tank. Also they are often difficult to modify or retrofit. A standard 4ft on the otherhand can have any lighting type you want.

Vwboy, I have just thought the same thing when looking at tanks again today. I really like the all-in-one design, it looks pretty schmick for a loungeroom, but today I saw under the hood and immediately thought the same thing regarding extra lights.

I can see why a standard tank and hood would be easier to work with.

Has anyone modified one of these all-in-one units to include extra lights?

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I have an all in one glass tank that is 200 litres 98cm x 47 x 43high and it has 2 x 90cm and 1 x 75cm fluoros in it, so the lighting is spot on. The problem is they all of these units seem to use over the top wet dry filters which are terrible for growing plants becuase they lose virtually all your CO2. I have converted it to using a cannister filter and the results were a substantial improvement. With the curved glass it looks fantastic. But the other problem is that is that the all in one hood makes it a pain to do maintanence. IMO, the perfect tank would be one that has an open top and uses combination metal halide/fluoro lighting (my next setup!) But, I agree a 125-130cm tank with say whatever depth and height (and suitable number of tubes) is a good setup as there are so many options with 120cm fluoro lighting and you would be silly to buy overpriced aquarium fluoros.

As for RK's comments on fertilizers, with a non CO2 set up, you actually may not need any fertilizer on a non CO2 tank. The fish poo, mulm & detritus will do all the fertilizing. I actually have tried Seachem flourish on my non CO2 set up and it makes absolutely no difference! On a CO2 tank there is a greater need for ferts off course. And as for Seachem being the best, I think that all fertilizers would do the job. It is not difficult to make a plant fertilizer. There are plenty of other products on the market that do the job as well as Seachem. It comes down to $.

And for substrate, you would have to be a rich person to buy Eco complete, seachem flourite for your tank. Just use a little laterite mixed in with your lower gravel, and after about 12 months the fish poo and detritus breaking down in the gravel will take over. 2-3mm inert gravel would be ideal.

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The problem is they all of these units seem to use over the top wet dry filters which are terrible for growing plants becuase they lose virtually all your CO2

Wet/dry filters only "lose CO2" if you are adding extra. They make absolutely no difference to a non-CO2 tank. I have a fabulous low light , non CO2 planted tank with this set-up. cool.gif

Cheers

Brett

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I picked up a 3ft curved glass tank with hood and stand during the week, I'm going to transfer one of my planted display tanks into it (well thats the plan).

The tank standard came with two 3ft lights in the hood - not sufficient for what I wanted, so I took them out on saturday, unscrewed the fittings then reassembled the hood to how I wanted it, it now has 2 x 3ft globes + 2 x 2ft globes as well, unfortunately I couldn't get the config that I wanted, thats why I have the different sizes, but floating fixtures worked a treat.

As for plants, my best suggestion is to you is - pull out an old scratched tank from under your house (yes we all have them tongue.gif) and go and get some of the plants you want now, put the tank outside somewhere in low light, attach a spare canister (doesn't need to meet the normal filtration requirements) and chuck your plants in. If you want to make your own planted driftwood etc. this is the time to do it. Plants like java fern will multiply really well under these conditions, then in months time when you are ready to set up your tank your inital outlay cost won't be as much.

It probably isn't feasible for only one planted tank, but because most of my tanks are planted I keep this spare tank a happening thing all year round, means I can tidy my planted tanks and put the clippings somewhere and then I have replacement stock should the need occur or the desire to start another tank tongue.gif

As for fish, the tank in question will house are:

6 x Corydoras trilineatus

2 x Dicrossus filamentosus

4 x Microgeophagus altispinosa

approx 10 x Gymnocorymbus ternetzi

I can't guarantee that none of those fishies are plant nibblers, but none of them do enough damage to worry me.

Anyways check back with me closer to when you are thinking about doing it (the planted tank that is), I've got quick a few plant species in my spare tank that we can have a looksee at and see if I can help you get started smile.gif

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"Wet/dry filters only "lose CO2" if you are adding extra. They make absolutely no difference to a non-CO2 tank. I have a fabulous low light , non CO2 planted tank with this set-up."

Brett can you please elaborate. Are you saying that wet/dry filters will loose CO2 only if add extra CO2 ? How can this be so ?

So you have a wet/dry setup without CO2 and the results are great ? I tried so many things with my wet/dry planted setup and nothing really seemed to give it a good boost. Then when I converted to cannister, the improvement was remarkable to say the least. I have blue stricta constantly growing to the surface and even Tiger lotus is finally speading its wings and climbing towards the surface.

cheers,

Daniel

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These are a few shots I just took of my planted tanks. These are raw directly from the camera to the internets so sorry for the dodgy framing and being out of focus. It's not my normal camera, it's a little Sony compact a friend lent me to play with today.This tank has an overhead wet and dry filter:

http://www.sarcanthinae.com/main.php?g2_vi...&g2_itemId=3837

You can see how a nice planted tank is a real feature of the room.

http://www.sarcanthinae.com/main.php?g2_vi...&g2_itemId=3844

That shot was done with the flash. Normally the tank is the brightest thing in the room.

Plants grow quite well (as guests who get cuttings can normally attest smile.gif )

http://www.sarcanthinae.com/main.php?g2_vi...&g2_itemId=3853

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Nice tanks, thanks for sharing. You have all low light plants in those tanks and the all seem to be doing well. Are you running the wet/dry and non CO2 in the all in one tank ?

I found that Crypts and anubias did just fine with my wet/dry filter, but the medium light plants like rotala rotundifolia, blue stricta, swords, tiger lotus etc struggled to survive in my wet/dry set up. In fact many had an early death. When I disconnected the wet/dry and converted to cannister filter the improvement was amazing.

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wow thats a nice tank mianos. I wish my anubis grew like that.

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Just been reading and i thought i would throw in a spanner in the works.

You can achieve something like this with a few extra buck's to start with,Remmeber the hardware is a once off cost.

Tank spec's

120x45x45cm 250 litre

220watts lighting

CO2 pressurized

PH controller

Canister

Eco complete

user posted image

This one is 180x60x60 low light no CO2 and no fert's are added to this tank.

user posted image

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AR- your tanks are beautiful, the top one is magnificent thumbup.gif . Could you give a rundown of price for the gear you used to set up that bad boy. Thanks.

mianos- beautiful tanks mate smile.gif , thanks for showing what you can achieve without the extras.

Jamie.

Edited by parrdog

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To answer Daniels CO2 question.

CO2 in the water is in equilibrium with the CO2 in the air. This exchange takes place at the water surface. Co2 travels from air->water and from water->air. When the two rates are the same the system is said to be in equilibrium and the CO2 concentration is stable, about 3-4 ppm CO2 at standard temperatures.

If you increase the CO2 levels in the water, then the rate of CO2 loss to the air is increased and the levels gradually fall till they return back to the equilibrium levels. You can only maintain persistingly high Co2 levels by continuosly adding CO2. How much you have to add depends on how much is lost, which is dependent on the surface area (which does not change) and the degree of surface agitation (which you can vary, and is dramatically increased by wet/dry filters). So wet/dry filters make it more difficult to keep your CO2 levels elevated.

However, if you are NOT adding CO2, the increased surface agitation increases BOTH the rate of CO2 loss (to the air) and gain (from the air) the same amount. The net result is no change to CO2 concentrations.

I am not sure why your plants did not grow with a wet/dry filter. Perhaps there was some other explanation. Maybe high oxygenation resulting in oxidation of trace elements????

Cheers

Brett

Aquatic Rocks, that is a nice tank. I would like to see it. Maybe you can pm me?

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clap.gif Thanks all for a grate read and fantastic pics. woot.gif I am extremely envious of your tanks and very keen to start an underwater garden of my own in fact I simply cant wait to start. And to think all this time i've been keeping african rift setups bare rock.

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