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Old 03-02-2007, 06:43 PM   #1 (permalink)
 
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Default Aquarium vet...new to plants

Hello everyone! This is, of course, my first post to this forum and I was semi-referred to this site from a person who is a great friend and who I know from another forum which is dedicated to all sorts of aquariums...however, finding a planted tank 'expert' seems to be awefully hard these days, so here I am!

Like my title suggests, I am pretty familiar with aquaria in general and keep five tanks at the moment. I have three saltwater tanks...a 90 gallon bow reef tank, a 29 gallon biocube breeding tank (clowns and mandarins), and a 10 gallon hospital tank with one fish in it right now. I have quite a few freshwater tanks, but really two of them are always up and running...a 55 gallon long and a 10 gallon used-to-be fry tank. Until very recently, I was keeping cichlids, malawi mostly, and had the 10 gallon for the fry. Now, I want to take on the planted tank because....well...it is a challenge and I want to see if I can do it. (and because I like the looks of them of course).

So, here is what I have done so far....

I removed all my fish and decor from my tank and cleaned up 50 pounds of flourite. I used some of the sand substrate from my previous set up, and some new gravel which I mixed with the flourite to get this tank:

(I have water in it now, and it is crystal clear already as you can see below)


I am using my old saltwater light set, a Finnex 4 by 54 watt HO T5 system with two white (10,000k I believe) bulbs and two actinic lights. That should be more than enough light for this tank...correct? (It will be planted on the heavy side from what I understand as far as what is heavy, light, and medium)

The plants are on their way from Dr. Foster and Smith's website...will be here this coming tuesday.

The only fish I have for this tank, which are in the 10 gallon used-to-be fry tank, are a rainbow shark (large one, very large), a BN pleco (debating on keeping it or not, have had it since I started out in the hobby so hard to part with it), and two otto cats, which I want to make at least five in this tank.

This is a very well established tank and I have one HOB filter that has been on it since day one running right now to help me support life from the nitrogen cycle point of view. I have also added a new Marineland cannister filter to this tank, mostly for personal reasons because I want to keep this tank as equipment free as possible. I am basically 'cloning' this filter from the established HOB filter I have on the tank right now, and the other one I used to have on this tank, but now have the biofilter media in the cannister filter. I plan to use a spray bar, submersed completely, and a valve to control the flow rate as needed. This cannister filter is rated for a 55 gallon tank, which normally I would go larger, but the plants should help me out with the filtration from my understanding, right?

I am using a substrate heating cable rated at 50 watts under the entire length of the tank. It is holding my temp perfectly at 75 right now and has been for two days. I have a backup heater if need be...ok, I have about 50 of them if need be

Now, the questions...

Like I said, this is an established tank, and I can deal with the nitrogen cycle and all of that without a problem or a doubt. However, the water parameters of this tank as of today are:

pH 7.6
Kh 70
Gh 180

So, this is a problem as far as I have read and researched out, right? The alkalinity is low, which should help me out in the long run with the slightly high pH, but my water is very hard. I am using city water, without a water softener and this is basically what my tap water is. Now, I have added some peat to the cannister filter (fluval brand peat fiber) and to be honest, I am not seeing much change at all. Is this product some sort of gimmick or do I need to wait a bit longer to see results? (It has been in the filter for two days).

What is the best method for me to affect the Gh of this tank? I do use RO water in my saltwater tanks and so I can mix some with this tank as needed, however, and this is just a fact of life, I do pay for my water and so making RO water gets expensive...so, I try to make only what I absolutely need.

I hope that I do not sound like the anti-christ here, but I have to tell you that I absolutely hate, and try to avoid with a passion, any product which is a chemical or something along those lines to buffer, change, or alter my water chemistry such as messing around with the pH. I am a firm believer that almost any freshwater fish can acclimate to a wide range of pH if given enough time to do so and that pH is maintained constantly. So, I am not looking for the quick fix or the product that keeps me next to my tank three times a day testing the water. I know that may sound harsh, but again, it is a fact of life that I just cannot do that all the time and so I am looking for something which is more permanant than anything else. Make sense?

So, are my hopes and dreams going to be dashed here by my water chemistry? Can plants adjust to a higher pH and hard water? How much affect will the CO2 have on this chemistry and will the plants affect things as well? If so, should I hold off on adding fish to this tank to allow those changes to take place and become more of a constant situation?

Lastly, I would just like to say thank you for taking the time to read this overly long post. I have such huge faith in forums like this one and so I know I can get the help I need here. I hope to meet a lot of great members here and hopefully soon I can be showing off my new planted tank to you all!

MD
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Old 03-02-2007, 08:32 PM   #2 (permalink)
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High KH = resistance to change in pH. The plants should do fine in such an environment (java ferns, anubias, vals, and amazon/melon swords for sure). Feel free to add CO2 but I don't think it will bring the pH lower than 7.0. Again, that's perfectly okay with all freshwater fish.

The key is to maintain a very stable water chemistry. Straight de-chlorinated tap water within a few degree F of the tank's temperature would be good. I'd change 50% of the water once a week. The fish should provide sufficient N and P for the plants. You may need to supplement K, and probably iron and the micronutrients.

I'd add about 3 to 4 fish in the beginning if the tank is fully cycled. Introduce a few more in a few days till full capacity (one 1.5" cardinal per gallon of water in the tank). Buy plant food tablets at the store and bury them (about 1/4 sq inch cube) deep in the substrate near the base of plants. This will provide food to the plants while you build up the fish population.
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Old 03-02-2007, 08:35 PM   #3 (permalink)
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It sounds like you're off to a good start.

Did I miss something? How big is this tank?

I'll make some random comments. Actinic lighting is designed to be beneficial to symbiotic organisms in reef systems. It's of little benefit in FW planted tanks. The 10,000K lights should be fine. Many people like to mix 10,000K lights with 6,700K lights in a 1:1 ratio.

Your tapwater should be perfectly fine for growing plants. I have one tank with a GH of 360 and a KH of 150. Most species grow perfectly well in it. I keep another tank at GH 90 and KH 60 by using RO water for the more delicate species. The vast majority of plants will be perfectly happy with your tapwater. I wouldn't bother with the peat. It acts very slowly and probably isn't needed.

I'd recommend reading Rex Grigg's site at www.rexgrigg.com for an overview of the basics.

If you make one single improvement to your tank, I'd recommend CO2 supplementation. The difference is amazing. You'll also need to think about addressing the macro & micro nutrient needs of the plants.
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Old 03-02-2007, 09:14 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Your tap water is perfect for most any plant and fish. I currently mix half RO half tap water to get a kh and gh of roughly twice yours. The only thing you will need to add is fertilizer(nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, and a micro mix of some sort, I use flourish) for the plants and the dechloraminator of your choice. Rex's guide has a great wealth of information, read it twice.

Ditto on the blue lights. Get yourself some more 10000k or a couple 6700k. I would only run all 4 bulbs if you want to go with pressurized co2, lots of ferts, lots of pruning. You can grow a greater variety of plants, but it requires a good amount maintenance too. You could run two bulbs and still grow a decent variety of plants with lower maintenance and algae issues.

I would recommend you jam it as full with fast growing plants as you can at the beginning. This should keep any ammonia away while the tank settles in. Good luck, I'm sure you will do fine judging by your experience with aquariums.
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Old 03-03-2007, 10:56 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Good luck with your new tank! What other fish do you plan to keep in this tank?
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Old 03-03-2007, 12:43 PM   #6 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
High KH = resistance to change in pH
I understand this...however, my Kh is sort of low at 70, correct? My worry is that the pH is not going to be stable. I have three days until the plants arrive and I am thinking about hooking up the CO2 system just to see what the changes, if any, would be. Is this a good idea or just a waste of time?

Quote:
Did I miss something? How big is this tank?

I'll make some random comments. Actinic lighting is designed to be beneficial to symbiotic organisms in reef systems. It's of little benefit in FW planted tanks. The 10,000K lights should be fine. Many people like to mix 10,000K lights with 6,700K lights in a 1:1 ratio.
This tank is a 55 gallon long, I may not have been very clear about that since I was in a hurry when posting...wanted to get to sleep.

As far as the actinic lighting, I obviously have the option to use it or not, and I can also change those bulbs with ease. My thinking was to use at least one actinic bulb over this tank just becasue I feel that a lot of fish look better under that sort of lighting. I know that cardinal tetras are spectacular under it from what I have seen in an LFS I visit semi-often. In reality, the tank looks much much clearer and crisp under all four bulbs...but if I can eek out some better results with other bulbs, then I have no problem changing one or even both of the actinic bulbs.

My understanding is that the light from an actinic bulb is no different from white light, but rather just another spectrum. Is this something you would agree with? I am fully aware of the benifits of actinic lighting in a saltwater tank...like I said, this is the same light that was over my salty tank when it was a FOWLR tank. Now I am into the reef side of things and have much more lighting over that tank. I am using this light system on this eventual planted tank simply because I have it and I dont have to spend more money. Depending on what your recomendations are, I will adapt this light system to optimize its affects.

Quote:
If you make one single improvement to your tank, I'd recommend CO2 supplementation. The difference is amazing. You'll also need to think about addressing the macro & micro nutrient needs of the plants.
I do have plans to use CO2 in this tank. I picked up two cheap sugar and yeast systems, which are both rated for a 20 gallon tank to buy some time until I can upgrade to a better system as I learn more and can better judge what is best for my situation.

As far as supplimentation, I have a large bottle of Seachem Flourish and a small one of Flourish Excel. I realize that this is probrably not the best or only supplimentation I need, but so far, it has been the only suggested product I have gotten thus far from a forum. I am also using flourite....which I have heard nothing good about it yet, however it has not been the messy problem that I was told to expect.

Quote:
The only thing you will need to add is fertilizer(nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, and a micro mix of some sort, I use flourish)
Whew! Maybe I am on the right track then....like I said, that is what I bought.

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I would recommend you jam it as full with fast growing plants as you can at the beginning.
Here is my plant list...and what will be coming to my house on Tuesday:
Micro Sword 5
Dwarf Hairgrass x 5
Anacharis x 8
Myrio - Red x 4
Rotala Indica x 10
Rotala Magenta x 3
Water Sprite x 3


My plan is to use the low, mid, and tall plants in a semi-unorthodox way in that instead of planting the short ones in the front of the tank and tall ones in the back, I am going to plant the shorter plants near the middle of the tank (closest to the black sand 'pathway') and the taller plants closest to the sides of the tank....if that makes sense. I have no problem maintaining this tank...I spend a lot of time, too much time according to the wife, playing with and maintaining my other tanks, so this one is going to only add to that a little bit. I typically do weekly water changes in the 25% range and so I will be sure to watch the water parameters on this new tank and do what needs to be done.

Quote:
Good luck with your new tank! What other fish do you plan to keep in this tank?
My plan is to go with nearly all small fish in this tank...rummy nose, neon or cardinals, otocinclus cats, yo yo loaches, and hopefully...if I can find some, a pair of dwarf cichilds (apisto) or if all else fails, a pair of german blue rams. That is really something I cannot plan too much on right now since the LFS in my area are sort of a hit and miss deal as far as what is available and what I can order. I have yet to order fish from an online store, but this may be a good time to check that out and see how reliable that option is. My brother once order a lot of fish from a really reputable online store (Dr. Fosters and Smith) and everything was good until the Fedex guy didn't follow the directions plastered all over the box telling him not to leave it on a doorstep in December. Obviously it gets pretty cold here in Wisconsin and so that is why I have been worried about ordering live fish. It is not the store I am worried about, it is the under paid Fedex or UPS guy that could be my problem.

Thank you all for your comments and advice! I can already tell that my success with this tank is going to hinge heavily on this forum!
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Old 03-03-2007, 03:43 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Nice start.

[hijack] How many Mandarins are you able to sustain in a 29?[/hijack]
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Old 03-03-2007, 05:11 PM   #8 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
How many Mandarins are you able to sustain in a 29?
I keep two mandarins...one male and one female, in my 29 gallon tank. I have a lot of live rock in there, almost 40 pounds, and the ones I have are tank bred and very open to eating prepared foods. In fact, they love blood worms. In this tank I also have quite a few macro algaes and so I am able to sustain a relatively large copepod population. I know what you are thinking, but I have kept these two mandarins for almost 6 months with no issues in one tank or another, probably about 2 months now in my 29 biocube. I have two green spotted mandarins in my 90 gallon tank, with the same type of situation but the macroalgae (cheato only) are kept in my over flow system and I shake them out once in a while to place pods into the tank as I was told worked well for a very good friend of mine on another forum. I think the mandarin 'hype' is a little bit outdated these days and many people I know are keeping them with great success more frequently these days.

Thanks for the comments on the planted tank though. I have to say that I am really enjoying this tank so far and it is basically empty! I cannot wait for the plants to come and I am debating hard about taking Tuesday off of work just so I can be here to get the delivery and start working on placing them in the tank!
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Old 03-03-2007, 06:25 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Welcome to the forum Mad Dog.
You came to the right place to get a planted tank started right!
Where in S.E. WI are you?
I have simular water parameters as you, living in Milwaukee. All the plants you chose will grow just fine in your water. The Florish is a very good product but really only supplys trace elements. The Flourish Excel is a carbon supplement and is also very good. I use both of these products. But with that much light and with CO2 you will need to add Macro fertilizers (N,P,K). I use potassium nitrate(N),mono potassium phosphate(P) and potassium sulphate(K) all bought from one of the sponsers here, Greg Watson. http://www.gregwatson.com/ They are all very cheap and last a long time.
Your tank looks good, and good luck with it!
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Old 03-03-2007, 07:50 PM   #10 (permalink)
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KH of 70 as in ppm or 4KH using the German scale? That should be fine with CO2 injection.
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