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Old 05-19-2019, 04:38 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Setting up a Low Tech, Low Light, High CEC Substrate Planted Tank

Hi All,

Just before I became ‘buried’ with the AGA convention (Aquatic Gardeners Association / aquatic-gardeners.org ) one the our forum members sent me a PM asked me how I set up my planted tanks. Rather than just provide the information to one person I decided (now that the dust has settled) to do a post so all have the opportunity to see how I am currently doing my planted tanks.

My 10 gallon tank had been set up for over a year, the previous inhabitants had moved on, and all that was in the tank were a Corydoras and an Otocinclus. I picked up some Melanotaenia lacustris (Turquoise / Lake Kutubu Ranbowfish) fry at the AGA convention and they needed a home so on Sunday I moved the fish out of the 10 gallon and did a complete teardown and reset. Here is how I did it.

After I cleaned the tank, the filter, the glass top, and the heater I was ready to start.



First I added a handful of 1/4 inch red lava stone which contain a lot of iron. If I were using Osmocote tabs or mineralized soil I would add that now as well.



Next I opened a new bag of Safe-t-sorb (calcined clay / Tractor Supply - 40# @ $6.49) which I am using for the substrate and put about 3” into my fish bucket.



I took it to the kitchen sink, filled the bucked half way, and rinsed the substrate stirring it with my hands. After two rinses the water coming out of the bucket still looks like chocolate milk. BTW, clay substrates will never rinse clean like gravel. Then I took the substrate to the clean, empty 10 gallon tank and started adding the Safe-t-sorb substrate. I like about 1-1/2 inches of substrate in my tanks so it is easy to plant without stems or plants floating to the surface. It took about 3 buckets of substrate to fill the tank. I sloped the substrate slightly higher in back than the front so detritus would move to the front where I could see it and siphon it out more easily.



Next I installed the hardscape, in this case it is Seiryu Stone (aka Ying Stone) that I treated with muriatic acid to darken the stones and make them look more weathered. I also installed the heater (unplugged) at this time so I would not have to deal with it later.



Now it was time to fill the tank. Remember how the rinse water from the substrate looked like chocolate milk? Do you want your tank to look like that after filling? If not here is how to avoid that problem. Take a piece of wax paper and lay it on the substrate of the empty tank. On top of the wax paper, in the middle, place a saucer. Add the water slowly being careful to hit the saucer. As it fills it should look like this.



After filling this is how it looks; cloudy but certainly not ‘milky’.



Next I installed the Aquaclear 20 HOB filter. In the filter I have ceramic rings and one (1) sponge - nothing else; no charcoal (which removes fertilizers) and no additives. I use Seachem Prime to remove chlorine and chloramines that are added to local water supplies. It was time to call it an evening, this is what the tank looked like after the filter had been running for about 2 hours.



Part Two will be posted later.
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Old 05-19-2019, 07:01 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Setting up a Low Tech, Low Light, High CEC Substrate Planted Tank

I have not seen a better step-by-step guide for a simple planted aquarium.
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Old 05-20-2019, 02:18 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Setting up a Low Tech, Low Light, High CEC Substrate Planted Tank

I agree! Please hurry with part 2!

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Old 05-20-2019, 03:31 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Setting up a Low Tech, Low Light, High CEC Substrate Planted Tank

Hi All,

Continuing from Post #1 above, here is Part 2 of my 10 gallon low tech, low light, high CEC journal.

Just before I went to bed, I took some water samples of the tank and did readings on pH, dKH, and dGH; these were the results:
pH – 6.2
dKH – 3.0
dGH – 3.0 (53.7 ppm)

The next morning I came downstairs, turned on the light, and this is what the tank looked like. Not bad if I say so myself. The water is still a little ‘brown’ but the tank had cleared substantially.



I again took some readings and these are the results:
pH – 6.2
dKH – 1.0
dGH – 3.0 (53.7 ppm)

Since I know that planting the tank will disturb the substrate and stir up ‘dust’ I decided that I would go ahead and start planting the tank then rather than wait until it cleared. I didn’t order, or purchase, any plants for this tank. I am just using plants that were in the tank before I cleaned it and some plants from my other tanks. After planting this is what I looked like.



I added a few small Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Bronze’ on the left in front of the stone and some Nymphaea micrantha ‘Gefleckt’ plantlets behind the rock. In the center are 4 stems of Pogostemon erectus that were not doing well in my 45 gallon. Just to the right of the Pogostemon erectus are 3 stems of Rotala ‘Vietnam’ (aka ‘H’ra) that also were not doing well in my 45 gallon. Tucked in with the Pogostemon and Rotala is some short, red stems of Ludwigia arcuata. Next is a small Nymphoides hydrophylla (aka sp. ‘Taiwan’) and lastly on the right in the back is Ceratopteris cornuta (aka Broadleaf Watersprite). In front of the rock on the right is some tissue culture Ranunculus inundatus that I foolishly allowed to almost dry completely before planting. Also, barely visible in the pictures are six plants of the red variant of Helanthium tenellum (previously Echinodorus tenellus red / Pygmy Chain Sword).

I added a few small Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Bronze’ on the left in front of the stone and some Nymphaea micrantha ‘Gefleckt’ plantlets behind the rock.


In the center are 4 stems of Pogostemon erectus that were not doing well in my 45 gallon. Just to the right of the Pogostemon erectus are 3 stems of Rotala ‘Vietnam’ (aka ‘H’ra) that also were not doing well in my 45 gallon.


Next is a small Nymphoides hydrophylla (aka sp. ‘Taiwan’) and lastly on the right in the back is Ceratopteris cornuta (aka Broadleaf Watersprite). In front of the rock on the right is some tissue culture Ranunculus inundatus that I foolishly allowed to almost dry completely before planting.


Tucked in with the Pogostemon and Rotala is some short, red stems of Ludwigia arcuata.


I installed the glass top and put the light back in place and called it a day.
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Old 07-03-2019, 04:45 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Setting up a Low Tech, Low Light, High CEC Substrate Planted Tank

Hi All,


It's been about six (6) weeks since I did an update (went to Disneyland with wife, kids, and 5 yo grandson) so here are some current pictures of the tank. Overall the tank looks good, plants are healthy, most are growing well although I am thinking of increasing the light intensity from [email protected] to approximately [email protected] because the Erio 'Vietnam' are just kind of hanging on and not doing much, same with the Ranunculus inundatus. The Pogostemon erectus, and Nymphaea micrantha and Nymphaea gardneriana (Santarem') are doing well, I have had to remove the two largest Nymphaea micrantha because they were getting too large for the tank. The Helanthium tenellum (previously Echinodorus tenellus red / Pygmy Chain Sword) are putting out runners.

What I really like is the tank has been set-up for two months....notice the total lack of algae? I only have had to clean the glass once and that was for diatoms.

Full tank view


Helanthium tenellum (left), Nymphaea micrantha (rear), and Nymphaea gardneriana (Santarem') (front right)


Pogostemon erectus (and Rotala 'Vietnam') continue to show good growth with large, well formed leaves (old growth with undersized leaves was when in different tank)
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Old 07-04-2019, 06:32 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Setting up a Low Tech, Low Light, High CEC Substrate Planted Tank

The tank looks great! Are you using any fertilization, or did I miss that?
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Old 07-04-2019, 06:58 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Setting up a Low Tech, Low Light, High CEC Substrate Planted Tank

Hi @Michael,

Yes, there is fertilization. I added six (6) Osmocote Plus "00" tabs into the substrate shortly after adding the plants. In addition I add:

1/64th tsp KNO3 (2.0 ppm of NO3) 2X per week
1/64 tsp KH2PO4 (1.6 ppm of PO4) 2X per week
1/32 tsp 4.9 ppm of K2SO4 (2.96 ppm K 2X per week) (if we include the K in the KNO3 and KH2PO4 then 5.66 ppm K 2X per week)
1 ml Seachem Comprehensive 2X per week
1/16 tsp Iron Mix 2X per week (DIY Iron Mix = 4 parts CSM+B; 1 part ferrous gluconate; 1 part DTPA Iron Chelate) provides 0.8 ppm of Fe, 0.11 ppm of Mn, 0.05 ppm B
1 ml Seachem Excel 2X per week
1/8th tsp CaSO4 2X per week (4 ppm of Ca)
1/16 tsp MgSO4 2X per week (1.3 ppm of Mg)

My last water chemistry readings (6/21) were:
pH @6.6
dKH @2.0
dGH @8.0
Ca @40 ppm
Mg @10.5 ppm (calculated)
NH3 @0.10 ppm (likely from Osmocote tabs)
NO3 @10 ppm
PO4 @0.25 ppm

I am trying to dose the tank per the presentation by Vin Kutty at the AGA Convention in May. To avoid issues with Pogostemon erectus and Rotala speces he advocated 1) rich substrate nutrition 2) low water column nutrition and 3) low alkalinity (dKH) to avoid issues with those species; based upon the results I have seen so far he seems to be correct.
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Old 07-08-2019, 02:54 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Setting up a Low Tech, Low Light, High CEC Substrate Planted Tank

Hi All,

The 10 gallon Low Tech continues to grow slowly. Cryptocorynes, Nymphaea, Ceratopters, are all doing well. The Helanthium tenellum has a runner with six (6) plantlets and still growing. I added a Barclaya longifolia on 6/22 and it is doing well, not only are the existing leaves larger but it already added a new leaf. The most exciting thing I spotted today was new growth from below the substrate on the Pogostemon erectus. I've had stems branch before when I 'topped' them but seldom new growth generated from the roots zone. The stems were a little shorter than 3" when planted and are now over 6" with much larger, healthier leaves along with the new growth.

10 Gallon, Low Tech, Low Light 7/8/19


Barclaya longifolia 6/22/19


Barclaya longifolia 7/8/19


Pogostemon erectus with new growth from substrate
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Old 07-08-2019, 05:55 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Setting up a Low Tech, Low Light, High CEC Substrate Planted Tank

Very good lesson! I'm really impressed by what plants you were able to get to grow very well with that set-up.
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Old 07-08-2019, 08:59 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Setting up a Low Tech, Low Light, High CEC Substrate Planted Tank

Quote:
Originally Posted by hoppycalif View Post
Very good lesson! I'm really impressed by what plants you were able to get to grow very well with that set-up.
Thank you hoppy for the kind words!
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