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Old 01-08-2007, 10:11 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default General Advice 55 Gal

I know I have said it, the dreaded 55 gal tank. I have this tank from turtles that I no longer have and I'm looking to turn it into a fish tank. I'm planning to stock it with fish such as:
-Zebra Danios
-Electic Blue Cichlids
-Maybe a pea puffer
- A single blue cray fish maybe?
-inverterbrets (sp) as well... Although all I seem to find available are Cherry and Crystal shrimp...although they do look sweet around the ground cover.
Not sure what else I'd like to have. This whole tank I'd like to slowly set up and make it unique and different.

What I currently have:
- 55 Gal Tank 48" long 21" tall, 13" deep
- Rena Filstar XP3 With biomax rings
- 48" T12 single bulb fixture, with 40 watt Aqua sun (or something) bulb (I know it must go) I'm thinking of replacing it with AquariumPlants.com Largest online sales / service site for the live aquarium plants community. the 10,000K 110watt bulb I'd think
- 1 banana plant that is doing alright currently.

I know I will need CO2 but at what point do I need to start adding it? I know this will depend on what i'd like to add

Ground cover:
I'd like to have several different kinds if possible:
- Fissidens zippelianus
- Four leaf clover
- Micro Sward

Back Wall Cover:
- Peacock moss

Plants I want in the tank:
-Flame Moss (eventually)
-Amazon sward
-Java fern
-Tiger Lotus
-others I find along my travels

What are your suggestions for me? I know the tank needs to cycle before I start to put plants in, and i've read around quite a bit on this site. What I'm not so sure about is the substrate. I dont think flourite sounds too good to me, it just sounds to messy, I'd like it eventually to all sit under some black sand... Suggestions are more then welcome.. (I think i put this in the wrong place now that i look where it's at. Sorry!)

Last edited by Muirner; 01-08-2007 at 10:38 PM.. Reason: Added to stock list
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Old 01-08-2007, 10:46 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Welcome to APC!!!

If you put 110 watts of light over your 55G you do *not* have to use CO2. I have a similar setup in which I dose Excel, and one with CO2. The CO2 tank has a bit faster growth but the Excel tank does just fine, too. Blyxa grows well in the Excel tank as does downoi although the downoi's growth rate is quite slow.

You do not need to cycle a planted tank. Plant it heavily and it requires no cycling time as the plants will take up any available ammonia. A "heavily planted" tank has about 75% of its footprint covered with plants.

I'm pretty sure that you are aware that shrimp and cichlids are not a good mix from the shrimp's perspective. You will need a *lot* of cover for any shrimp babies to survive. Cichlids in particular will eat anything that fits in their mouths (as do many other fish but cichlids tend to be expert hunters).

A lot of people would disagree with this but my observation is that unless you are growing a handful of plants that require soft water (in which case I would recommend ADA Aquasoil) it doesn't matter much what substrate you use in a tank *as long as you add fertilizer to the water column*. I have Eco-complete, sand, and fine gravel tanks along with a new Aquasoil tank. I find no difference in plant growth. My recommendation is that you use whatever substrate you would like to look at.

I would recommend that you check out Compact Fluorescent Lighting Kits for a light kit and build your own light if you are at all handy at such things. They come with the best reflectors on the market and you get easy to follow instructions. Even I can build a light from their kits!

I also recommend that you decide on a fertilization scheme before you get your plants. Some people use the Seachem product line and add ferts according to their directions. Many people use EI, some people use PPS (I have done both) and there are other regimens, too. You can find info on the fertilization subform about EI and PPS. If you choose to use one of those regimens you can buy fertilizer cheaply from Aquarium Plants, Aquatic Plants, Planted Aquariums, and Aquarium Plant Fertilizer.

When you first start your tank you should probably put in a lot of fast growing stem plants to keep from having algae problems. It is common for a newly setup tank to have an outbreak of brown algae until it settles down, but fast growing stem plants help prevent other algae problems. You can remove them after your tank settles down and replace them with other plants. Fast growing stem plants are listed as "easy" or "very easy" to grow in the plant finder. You can often get large quantities of them very inexpensively in the Buy and Sell subforum.

Hope some of this helps. Enjoy planning and starting up your tank!
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Old 01-08-2007, 10:54 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Thank you, i'm glad to be here!

When you say fertalizing the water column how do you do this? I have heard about it but yet to read how it's done.

The chilid idea can go out the window at any second, it's just a speculation as of now. I'm looking for "intresting" fish, and other things in the tank. But i like the look of shrimp along a nice green plush substrate. This also brings in the question, is it possible to have 2 or more different substrate covers? Or will one out compete another and cause a problem?

How come Compact Flourcent lights instead of the T12 ones? I'm just wondering not trying to agrue If they are better but I can get by with the T12 I will save up and put together a nice DIY setup for my tank. The only think i'm unsure of is, the T12 VHO 10,000K bulbs bright enough for me to be able to have some mosses (listed above) and other plants in my tank? Or better yet, what should not look at because i'll need to up my lighting a bunch.

I'd like to try to get some stuff planted and fish in the tank semi soon because right now having all the stuff and nothing going through it isnt any fun, and I'd like to get rid of the eyesore. What kind of plants are "fast growing" that'd help with the initial ammonia spike?

Any ideas on how to set up the XP3? Does anyone on the board use it? And if so spray bar? Or the "jet discharge thing"?

Where is a good place to look online for substrates? I've been looking at aqua essentials online but they are not based in the US so that isnt going to work for me, where is a good place to get my substrate (i dont think local LFS have anything but rocks at the store) Things i'm looking at:
ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia
Seachem Onyx Sand

Do i need to test my water before i choose a substrate or how does that go?

Last edited by Muirner; 01-09-2007 at 10:02 AM..
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Old 01-09-2007, 10:08 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Welcome to apc. Here's some links which you should find useful:
DFW Aquatic Plant Club Articles-- Beginner Basics: Introduction
Rex's Guide to Planted Tanks
https://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/f...parts-1-a.html
http://http://www.aquaticplantcentra...ing-guide.html
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Old 01-09-2007, 12:54 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Ok, so I have read a few of the links already today, and i did read your post bert about the planting as well as setting the substrate up. So for now i just have a few questions.
Having a few degrees of GH is a good thing? What about KH?
-As i understand GH is my intermediate nutrence so this is desirable in small amounts (right?)
-KH Is the bicarboniate ions and will help buffer my water. So again some is ok i assume?

And I've looked into getting a CO2 tank from a local welding supply co. But what i dont understand is the regulator. Could i use something like This? Or Do i need the expensive one like This I understand that has a monitor to help control the CO2 only when needed, but still 165$ is a lot. But i'm open to everyones opinion.

I'm thinking about eco complete as a substrate. I'll probably go with that alone, even though i do enjoy the look of the tahetian moon sand.

Also i know canister filters arnt really needed, but i was thinking if i made an "overflow" box on the back where i could stick the intake, i could let the moss wall on the back build up and grow around it (as long as the "teeth on the top" are open, and then just use the discharge on the end... I'm just not sure how yet.

That's about it for now, more reading to do for me.

Last edited by Muirner; 01-09-2007 at 01:48 PM..
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Old 01-10-2007, 05:25 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
-As i understand GH is my intermediate nutrence so this is desirable in small amounts (right?)
GH refers to 'general hardness', and is a measure of Ca and Mg in your water. While there is debate over how much is needed, plants do require these ions for proper growth. A 4:1 ratio is generally considered desirable.

Quote:
KH Is the bicarboniate ions and will help buffer my water. So again some is ok i assume?
Not bicarbonate, but carbonates. Again, as with most everything in this hobby, how much you need is debatable, but, imo, yes, you do need some kh levels.

The vast majority of aquatic plants can grow in very varied waters, in terms of gh and kh. Some plants do require 'soft water', otherwise, this is not much of an issue, as long as you meet all the plants nutrient needs.

As far as CO2 regulators, you do not need to have one with pH controller, unless you want to. If you go the cheaper route, you will also need to purchase a needle valve and perhaps an adapter to fit it to the regulator. The basic regulators will not allow you to fine tune the gas flow sufficiently for use in aquaria, so the needle valve is needed. Rex Grigg's site also has regulators, needle valves, etc which he sells. You can choose to buy the pieces individually and you will save some money ($20-$30) for a basic setup or you can go the 'all-in-one' route and save the headaches. It's your call. Here's another link which you might find helpful: Affordable Pressurized CO2

Regarding filters, the XP3 you have will work fine for that tank. Possible problems with overflow filters is de-gassing. You will need to use more CO2 to maintain proper levels.

Last edited by Bert H; 01-10-2007 at 05:38 AM..
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Old 01-10-2007, 06:26 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Hi,

I noticed you're willing to spend the $$ for EcoComplete substrate (and even list the ADA substrate as a possibility), but don't want to change your light fixture. I'd switch those budget items and put the lighting at a higher priority than the substrate. Just my 2 cents.

Also, while I'm not the best on electrical fixture knowledge, I don't believe its safe to run a 110w bulb (the 10,000K one you mention) in a fixture made for a single T12 bulb (it probably won't even work, and could be a fire hazard if it did). Your ballast is probably only rated for 32w T8's, or 40w T12's, etc. See if you can read the rating through the ventiliation slits in the enclosure.

If you have a Lesco supply place near you, Soilmaster Select (an alternative to Onyx or EcoComplete) is only $16 for 50 lbs - and folks seem to have very good results with it. It does come in "charcoal" which is kind of a light matte black with a few flecks of the red colored product in it, which I think looks great. I just re-did a 30 g with a soil underlayer covered by Soilmaster Select. You'll find a LOT of information about it if you search on that name in the Science of Substrates forum area. Also, Black Beauty blasting grit is a nice color, and less expensive.

Dosing the water column simply means adding fertilizers directly into the water via powdered chemicals (usually mixed into small amt of water) or liquid preparations. The fertilizers are in contact with leaves and stems of the plants (except anubias, java ferns, etc) and not really the roots (diffusion into the substrate is minimal). The term just distinguishes those fertilizers added to the water, as opposed to those put in the substrate - either via the makeup of the substrate itself, or root-tab suplements, etc. Usually its best to introduce water column ferts into a flow of water, like the filter output, in order to get it dispersed quickly.

You can certainly grow more than one foreground plant at once. Sometimes, they're even interspersed, such as riccia in hairgrass, glosso with hairgrass, etc. Personally, I'm not a fan of that, but some folks like it. I've had an area of glosso next to an area of hairgrass, and that looked nice, sort of a two-tiered foreground, until, yes, the hairgrass invaded the glosso. Usually a single kind of foreground draws the eye better, just as larger areas of a single plant type, grouped near other areas of a single plant type generally are preferred, as opposed to interspersing 2 stems of plant A, then 2 stemsof plant B, then two of plant A again.

Satirica reccomended/linked to AH Supply. I'd second that vote. They have great products at a reasonable price. I'd put more of your budget into lighting, you'll be happy you did in the long run. Besides, with enough plants, you barely notice the substrate, LOL!

-Jane
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Old 01-10-2007, 08:05 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Hello,

One other point about the bulb (URI 10000k - 110w) you gave the link for. These bulbs are made for use in special fixtures which are called Very High Output; they are designed to OVERDRIVE a bulb to give higher watts from the bulb. If you put this in a N.O., (Normal Output) fixture you will not have 110 watts of light; you will have what your N.O., ballast are made to put out, probably still 40 watts.

I second, and third the other recommendations already made to you regarding look at your lighting as a more fundamental and essential component of your total system. In the long run it will make a far bigger difference in your success, or lack of, in growing an aquatic jungle.

I've set up several tanks and sometimes I think the planning is more than half the fun. Take your time making choices and decisions. Most planted tank veterans can give you list of wrong equiptment purchased now laying unused and dollars wasted.
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Old 01-10-2007, 08:50 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Thank you for your replies everyone! I'll address the replies individually where approperate:

Bert - Thank you for the link, I will be checking it out and reading intensly again. When you say "Soft water" does that mean low #'s of GH, and KH? I will look at Rex Grigg's Site and see what I can figure out. What i defentally need is a primary regulator (connects to tank and dropps pressure) and then a needle valve inline, so i can do fine adjustments right? If that's all set Its one more piece i've figured out.

Jane - I dont believe I have a Lesco around. Can you tell me what kind of store this is? Is it like a Home Depot or something? And you suggest soilmaster select? My only question is, will this stay at the bottom of the aquarium, like with the EcoComplete. The only reason i went this route is because it has nutrience in it and i've read real good reviews. But i'm always open to new ideas.

With the soilmaster do you need to fertalize the soil? Or do you end up with water column dosing only? Now that i think of the bottom of my tank, i'm not sure i want a bunch of interwoven plants for my substrate cover, so i'll probably stick with just one.

Mud, Jane, Bert - Your all probably right. I couldnt find the ballast for my fixture through the slits but i did take the starter out and looked at it, and it was a 13, 20, 40 watt starter. I dont think this fixture has it in it to run a VHO bulb. So now i'm off to do the looking around for DIY kits and such. What type of bulbs would you suggest to go over a 55gal? Would you say something like 4x40 watt or? I'll probably end up ordering a DIY kit, but even then that will be an expendature. I'm not opposed to spending some money, but I have to first justify it. Where do you shop for your DIY kits? I saw plans on here i believe for building your own hood out of wood, this my dad and i could do.

Thanks for all your help thus far. I just need to find out where i can sell this old fixture, and then use some of that $ for my new one.
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Old 01-10-2007, 09:06 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
I don't think fluorite sounds too good to me, it just sounds to messy, I'd like it eventually to all sit under some black sand...
Welcome to the Club My Friend, You picked a great place to be Anyway on the Fluorite issue, Preparation is the key to using this stuff with minimal cloudiness. I had a Link that explained how to prepare it if you so choose to go this route.

Take those 20 pound bags, I have a 55 as yours, I used 40lbs with Pee gravel, anyway get a Strainer, one for spaghetti will suffice, open the bag pour some in and rinse it, don't mix it up in the strainer , Just rinse. keep rinsing until the Muck disappear.

Save the muck if you have house plants and feed them it Woo woo boy is it a nice fert.

Spread it out on some old towels, let it dry and add it to the tank. Took me a half hr to rinse 40 lbs.

I Have to second and third everyones response to lighting, Get the lighting, then the CO2 in the long run you will be glad you did. I went with the ORBIT 4x65 PC's and a Timer to adjust the maximum lighting needed for what I have for now.

Third, read , read , and read LOL... I hope to turn this whole set up around in a month or two to look like those published here.
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