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Old 01-15-2016, 06:32 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default New(ish) to Planted Tanks, Seeking Advice

I would like some help coming up with a plan for a low-tech, low-light setup. I am primarily confused by all the information out there on fertilizing. I don't want to over-fertilize, but I don't want to under-fertilize either. I know the amount of fertilization needed varies with lighting, plants, and fish. So here is my current or planned setup (waiting on the actual tank to arrive in the mail--long story). I would like to take advantage of the fertilizers and equipment that I already have, if it all possible.

3 Gallon Tetra LED Aquarium Kit
-Provided lighting replaced with the Finnex Stingray LED 10" (already have)
-Provided filter replaced with AZOO Mignon Filter 60, Filter media: Aquaclear Foam inserts, Seachem Purigen, and Seachem de*Nitrate (identical to Seachem Matrix, just smaller grain size; already have)

Substrate: Caribsea Eco-Complete Black Gravel (do not have); small shell gravel, river rocks (already have)
Fertilizers I have: Flourish, Flourish Excel, Flourish Iron, Flourish root tabs
Plants: Anubias, Java Moss, Cryptocoryne lutea, Cryptocorine wendtii, water sprite (already have some of them)
Decor: Driftwood, ceramic house
Fish: 1 male Betta splendens (already have)
Source water: tap water
Heating: set to 78 degrees
CO2: no added CO2
Water changes: You tell me how often would be best, but I've been doing about a 30-50% water change once per week.

A note on the lighting: I have a nearby CFL desk lamp that is 27 watts and 6500K. Should I use this to supplement lighting?

Should I use the fertilizers I have and in what amounts? Are there other fertilizers I should use and in what amounts?

Water Parameters of Tap Water:
Nitrate: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
GH: 150 ppm
Chlorine: 1.0 ppm
KH: 0-40 ppm
pH: 7.0
Ammonia: 0 ppm

Backstory:
I've been keeping tropical fish for about 10 years. I am ready to take on the next challenge: aquascaping a planted nano aquarium. After taking a break from my fish-keeping hobby for about 5 years, my sister has tried to help me launch back into it by gifting me a small setup and Betta for Christmas. So, I currently have set up the 1.5 Gallon Tetra Cube LED Aquarium kit with one Betta. I am using the Finnex Stingray LED light instead of the provided lighting. I am using the provided filter right now. I have added a heater of course. I currently have anubias, java moss, cryptocoryne lutea, and cryptocoryne wendtii bronze (which melted, so now it's just roots, which I can dispose of and replace). I have been dosing Flourish, Flourish Excel, and Flourish Iron according to the instructions on the bottles.

I really appreciate you taking the time to help me start on the right foot.
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Old 01-15-2016, 07:13 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: New(ish) to Planted Tanks, Seeking Advice

Welcome to APC!

How tall is this tank? The reason I ask is this will help determine how much light and which fixture you need. I think that the Finnex Stingray will be good by itself, and you don't need to supplement with the CFL. When I had my Walstad 3.5 gallon tank set up, a single 27w CFL was way too much light. A 13w was plenty, and even it needed to be 3"-4" above the rim of the tank.

Since you haven't purchased your substrate yet, I suggest you read up on mineralized top soil and the Walstad method. If you set up your tank using these methods, you probably will not need to use any fertilizers at all for 6-12 months. At that point you might need to add some root tabs.

Good luck, and keep us updated.
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Old 01-15-2016, 12:52 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: New(ish) to Planted Tanks, Seeking Advice

Thank you for your reply.

The 3 gallon aquarium is 10.5 inches tall. I think that the Finnex Stingray LED light should be plenty, as you said. Thank you for your substrate suggestion and reference to the Walstad method. I'd rather keep it simple though and just use root tabs with the Caribsea Eco-Complete. The only rooted plants I plan to have are Cryptocrynes, and they should do fine with the Eco-Complete and root tabs (although correct me if I am wrong here).

I briefly tried a product by Seachem called Betta Basics, which contains phosphates. I was trying to use it as a pH buffer, but I had problems with the product and returned it. But! My Anubias loved the phosphates and sprouted a new leaf while I was using it. This tells me that maybe I am deficient in phosphates/phosphorous?

I not concerned about trying to get rapid growth. I just want my plants to be healthy and grow (not die/melt!).

I think the lighting, substrate, and CO2 in my planned setup should be sufficient. Then, the only other factors that I'd have to keep up with are added nutrients and water changes. Even if only added in small amounts and infrequently with a low-tech setup like mine, I believe the right balance of nutrients is important.

Can you help me provide my plants with the correct balance of nutrients? I don't know what products I should combine, how often or how much I should dose, or how to know what I am deficient in.

1. I have Flourish, should I get Equilibrium instead?
2. Should I buy test kits for measuring nutrient amounts?
3. What about adding nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium?
4. Will micro and macro nutrients in the substrate add significant nutrients to the water, or do they pretty much stay in the substrate?
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Old 01-15-2016, 02:47 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: New(ish) to Planted Tanks, Seeking Advice

Since I don't use any fertilizers in the water (except for potassium in old tanks), I can't advise you on that. But there are plenty of other people here who can.

Part of the Walstad method is to hold nutrients in the substrate where plants can use them but algae cannot. If you do not want to use soil to do this, you can do something similar by using a high cation exchange capacity (CEC) substrate with root tabs or Osmocote. High CEC substrates include anything derived from clay: Fluorite, Turface, Safe-T-Sorb, even cat litter. Ecocomplete is of medium value in this regard (personal opinion).
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Old 01-15-2016, 05:42 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: New(ish) to Planted Tanks, Seeking Advice

I happen to have some Flourite substrate. But I don't like the color of it and it's so messy. Would it be beneficial to make a bottom layer of Flourite topped with the Eco-Complete?
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