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Old 09-01-2007, 10:44 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Advice wanted

Here's to putting the forum to good use I suppose. I'm here to learn from those whom have experienced the creation of "larger-size-tank aquascaping". The desire is to create an aquascape which presents primarily rich green and dark brownish/black colours, highlighted by a large school of cardinal tetras in their dynamic red and blue. The space will be filled largely with plenty of intricate driftwood, with any top part exposed to the light directly, covered in moss. Patches of the gravel covered in ground cover, resembling grass.

The plan:
-Darker substrate
-Black background
-Lots of large driftwood covered in Java moss
-Some stones (Possibly petrified wood?) with some cryptos attached
-Ground cover with low-height, thick plant. Something that will grow with limited light.
-Otocinclus & corydoras catfish, cardinal tetras, Amano shrimp.

So far the materials gathered are:
-215 gallon oceanic aquarium w/ stand & glass lid.
-Filtration: Fluval 405's (X2), Fluval FX5
-Lighting; mixed florescent and compact fluorescents (totaling ~420 Watts)
-Plenty of large drift wood
-Seachem Fluorite (~95 lbs)
-Dark River Gravel (80 lbs)

The items I am missing:
-Substrate heat cable (30-45 feet or so? suggestions?)
-Co2 Equipment (I know nothing about Co2...)
-Possibly a UV sterilizer? Though I am curious as to why I do not hear about them being used more often in heavily planted tanks?
-Suggestions...

All suggestions and guidance will be appreciated. I am in southern Ontario, Canada if you have locations to suggest to view examples, or purchase equipment.

Last edited by Will Hayward; 09-01-2007 at 11:39 PM..
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Old 09-02-2007, 08:19 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Advice wanted

Congratulations! You are starting on a really fun project.

First, don't buy a substrate heating cable. They are not worth the money, if they are worth anything at all. Spend that money on a good pressurized CO2 system instead. http://www.bestaquariumregulator.com/co2.html is one place to get a good system, and if you search around that website you can learn a lot about planted aquariums too.

Be sure to heavily plant that tank with fast growing stem plants right from the start. Then read up on EI fertilizing, or PPS pro fertilizing, and use one of those methods for fertilizing from the beginning. After several weeks, the tank will be stabilized, with adequate biological filtering and you can start replacing the stem plants you don't like with plants you do like.

Good luck!
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Old 09-02-2007, 08:52 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Advice wanted

Thank you.

Have you had bad experiences with substrate heating? Stability is something I want, and something that the substrate heaters are said to give... I do not want to have to tear down the tank after a year or two. I would very much like to hear your experiences with substrate heaters.

I did not intend to have any stem plants in the tank at all. You are suggesting that I put them into to help cope with the excessive amounts of nutrients in the initial stages, yes? To reduce algae and green water. With the substrate being only 50% fluorite, would this still be needed?

Alas CO2 seems to be a language I do not yet comprehend. Are there any complete all included systems for tanks of ~200 gallons in size? Something that I can order while I research, and be ready to install when it arrives without having to purchase lots of knick-knacks?
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Old 09-02-2007, 10:00 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Advice wanted

With a 200Gal tank you are going to need pressurized if you are going with CO2. Before you make any decisions I would take a good look around the forums & also as suggested above here http://www.rexgrigg.com/
The equipment on offer here is by other people in the hobby who have put together a reg assembly at a reasonable price for quality equipment.

The regs needle valves etc do not get bigger as the tank size increases, only the amount of CO2 you put into the tank, to get the optmum levels of CO2 approx 30ppm. With 200 gal if you put a single diffuser in the tank you would probably need a powerhead to blow the CO2 across the tank or consider a manifold W/ dual needle valves & dual diffusers or an inline reactor.

Anyway, do your homework....it's always more benificial in the long run when you make an educated decision
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Old 09-02-2007, 10:20 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Advice wanted

I set up a 180g planted tank a little over a year ago. The journal is here. You can see what I did for equipment and such.

I agree with Hoppy about the substrate heater. The only benefit they provide as far as I can see is money for those who make and sell them.

Planning a low-maintainence tank (no stemmies) is probably a smart idea for such a large tank. I'm slowly moving that direction, but just love the stem plants too much to let them go. That said, most people who set up large tanks use cheap, rapid-growing stemmies to get the system off to a good start. Do not underestimate the quantitiy of plants you'll require. Stability is the key to staying on top of algae issues. Stability does not exist in a new tank, but healthy, eager, rapidly growing stemmies help a lot. You can gradually transition to a lower-maintainence tank over time.

An absolute must for a tank of that size is a good built-in system for doing waterchanges. Lighting will be your primary place to spend money. Do some research here and make sure you end up with something that will match your intended goals.

I would also strongly advise against starting off with a 215g as your first planted tank, first high-light, or first CO2 supplemented system. Simple equipment or technique mistakes on a 20g tank are no big deal. The same mistakes at the scale you're talking about get very expensive and are difficult to correct without enormous effort.

It is possible to start of with a large tank as your first planted setup, but only if you've done extensive research and have good friends with lots of experience to help you along. If not, you'll soon be waging algae wars on a scale that will seem unbelievable.

One final note concerning CO2.... It is notoriously difficult to provide even distribution of nutrients in larger tanks. CO2 injected into one corner will not diffuse to the other side of the tank without rather strong circulation. If you go with diffusors, I'd recommend at least 3 or 4 separate devices for a tank of that size. That many can quickly becomes an eyesore. IMO a reactor is the most simple and un-obtrusive method of CO2 injection. You can divide the outflow to allow for broad distribution of the dissolved gas. If I did my tank over again, I would have drilled the tank to allow for a spraybar along the back wall, but without the obtrusive centerline PVC return pipe or the return pipe in the corner. Don't use less than a 20lb CO2 cylinder either. Mine lasts about 5 or 6 months for my 180g tank. More frequent changes than that become tedious.

Last edited by BryceM; 09-02-2007 at 10:27 AM..
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Old 09-02-2007, 10:57 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Advice wanted

Quote:
Originally Posted by PHalas View Post
The regs needle valves etc do not get bigger as the tank size increases, only the amount of CO2 you put into the tank, to get the optmum levels of CO2 approx 30ppm. With 200 gal if you put a single diffuser in the tank you would probably need a powerhead to blow the CO2 across the tank or consider a manifold W/ dual needle valves & dual diffusers or an inline reactor.

Anyway, do your homework....it's always more benificial in the long run when you make an educated decision
Of course, I'm aware that size does not increase, but additional parts will be required. For this reason I was looking for a kit specifically designed for tanks of equal size. I do have a powerhead available to use (Aquaclear 110) however in order to maintain the tranquility of a highly planted tank the point is to minimize the number of hardware pieces in sight within the aquarium. For this reason I was wondering how many outputs would be advisable.

As far as home work, thats precisely why I am here.
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Old 09-02-2007, 11:55 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Advice wanted

Figured you were not aware of your options at all anyway the least impact on a Tank this size would be DIY inline reactors if your running two filters maybe even a reactor on each.
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Old 09-02-2007, 11:59 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Advice wanted

Well, I may not understand Co2 as a whole, however the research I have been doing is slowly (very) shedding some light on the methods being used.

Hmm... Inline eh, that sounds better.
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Old 09-02-2007, 12:09 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Advice wanted

Will ,take a look @ this http://www.rexgrigg.com/diy-reactor.htm
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Old 09-02-2007, 12:19 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Advice wanted

You can put the CO2 reactor in the filter return line and you can also use an in line heater in the return line. That gets two pieces of equipment out of the tank. But, as guaiac boy said, you have to take a lot of care to get good water circulation all over the tank to get the CO2 enriched water to all of the plants in the tank. Using two canister filters is a good way to do that. Rena Filstar filters are not the top of the line filters, but they do provide a lot of flow at a low price, so I would use two XP4 filters, with the heater and a CO2 reactor in one and just a CO2 reactor in the other, with the inlet pipes located to make sure the circulation pattern is a good one.

When setting up the tank for the first time, make a big effort to get as much mulm from someone elses tank as you can, just before you set up the tank. Then add that to the substrate, at the bottom. Adding a very, very thin layer of ground peat beneath the substrate, with the mulm, is also a good idea. That gives the beneficial bacteria a jump start. The load of stem plants, like hygrophila difformis or ludwigia repens that you add to start out, is to make sure there are enough growing plants in the tank to immediately use up any ammonia that appears in the tank as it begins to build up its nitrifying bacteria colony. That ammonia, not excessive fertilizing, is what triggers algae blooms.

Also, start out with only moderate lighting - about 200 watts of T5 bulbs in good reflectors, or up to twice that of CF bulbs in their less good reflectors. That makes any algae bloom start up much slower so you have a chance to correct the problems that caused it. Using very hight light to start out means the whole tank can get algae before you even notice it is there. Later, if you want to, you can increase the lighting, after you have learned more, and the beneficial bacteria is all up and running.
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