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Old 05-06-2008, 05:58 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Getting Frustrated...and Hello!

First I'd like to say hello, and thanks in advance for bearing with any impatience and/or irritation I may end up showing in an 'introduction' post!

Now...about me and my tank(s). Currently I have a 130gal freshwater fish tank. The key word here is fish. Recently at a local Petsmart I decided to pick up some of the more attractive aquatic plants they had in. I've owned a few tanks in the past, and was always just disappointed with the plastic junk that was available. Soooo, aquatic plants. The first plant I chose was some kind of onion thing (2 of them)...that's what it said on the plant tab, but I'm assuming that's as reliable as looking at the label on the tank to see what kind of fish is in it eh? It looks like a cross between 'Crinum thaianum' and 'Vallisneria americana' (please don't let the scientific names fool you...I haven't a clue...those pictures are close though). Long thinner leaves, but with a smaller bulb at the bottom. I also bought 3 of what look like 'Parrot Fern' (my current favorite I think), and also multiple (around 12), very cool sword looking plants that I've been told now aren't aquatic, and are for terrariums etc.

These plants replaced EVERY piece of junk plastic in the tank...and I have to say I absolutely love it. The fish seem happier, and the tank is much more natural. I have a nice centerpiece of Mopani, a bit of sandstone, and some accent pieces of Mopani as well. The effect over black colorquartz is pretty nice.

This leads us to my problem. First...I highly doubt that 3m type s black colorquartz, my fish, and a few local fertalizer tabs are going to be enough to support even the relatively small number of plants I have. This has lead me to this incredibly varied world of 'planted tanks'. I'm impressed...but a 'planted tank' as I see most of you guys using the term is far, far more than I need or want for my system lol. My tank is a wall divider for my living room and kitchen. I want and NEED to be able to see through it. I'd be happy with less than a third of the plantings I've noted in some of the incredible tanks I see on this site! Compounding this problem (and actually the cause of it) is the fact that I'm upgrading my 130gal to a 300gal this weekend. The 130 is 72"x18"x24, and the 300 is 120"x24"x24". Since it's coming empty...now is a good time to do whatever I need to do in order to maintain a 'fair' amount of live plants (maybe double what I have now...or a bit more, tastefully placed so as not to reduce visibility too much)...without going overboard. Cost is a minor issue...excepting anything I can buy at Home Depot (basically unlimited company card...small perk of your own business).

So, what it comes down to is this. After over a week of reading endlessly confusing, convoluted...and contradicting posts, threads, and articles...I'm about resigned to replacing dead plants once a month to keep this thing looking how I want it. The questions I have are...do I absolutely NEED C02? I love my air bubblers...with a wall divider tank bubbles through the center are attractive (the wife is demanding this too...her allowing me a tank actually required bubbles lol). Do I need to put some kind of filler layer of a gravel type substrate under my sand? My tanks are often built up below the water level with sanitized bricks in order to eliminate some of the expense of sand/gravel (I like a lot of varied surface elevation in the bottom of my tanks..high in the center and on the outside edges etc), how is this going to affect planting and keeping the roots happy? I don't think it will impact things too much as long as I leave room between the bricks for gravel or whatever inexpensive substrate you guys suggest...and it's not like I pave the bottom lol. Last but not least...this 300gal acrylic tank is absolutely immaculate, tha last thing I need is some HUGE algae bloom coming and wiping it out where I've got to clean it continuously! Lighting shouldn't be a problem...I have 4 40w blue actinic fluorescents, 4 40w GE 'Daylight' fluorescents, and 2 LED moonlight strips...I assume this is sufficient?

Anyhow, I know this is a lot of questions (and very demanding I'm sure...my apologies!)...and trust me I'm going to read through as much of this site as I can in order to find the answers! I just have yet, on ANY of these sites...to find any information for the 'casual planter' like me =/.

Thanks in advance guys and gals!!

Cris
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Old 05-06-2008, 09:00 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Getting Frustrated...and Hello!

Hmmm. A 300g planted tank is not what I'd typically recommend to start learning with.

First, you need to define what sort of planted tank you'd like to end up with, then figure out how to achieve it. From your post, it sounds like moderate light, no CO2 is what you're after.

This limits your plant choices, but in reality, it doesn't sound like that will be a problem for you. Replacing plants once per month means you're doing something wrong, or you're chosing species that aren't compatilbe with a moderate-light, no CO2 setup.

Light is the first priority. Actinic light will do nothing for a FW tank. Get rid of them or change the bulbs to something else. This leaves you with only 4x40W = 160W of decent fluorescents of an unknown type. This is certainly NOT sufficient for a planted tank. No species of plant will survive for long at that light level over a 300g tank. Convert the 4 actinics to proper FW bulbs (6,500K to 10,000K) and you're still at the lower edge of what would be deemed appropriate for a low-light setup. If you're talking about T5 bulbs with good reflectors, you're getting close. If you're talking about T8 bulbs in a shoplight-type setup, you're still WAY short of what you need.

For a 300g tank of 24" depth, I'd recommend about 1.5 or 2 watts/gallon of high-quality lighting. This means T5, Metal halide, or at the very least, compact fluorescents with good reflectors. You'll be in the realm of medium light intensity at this level.

Swords, anubias, vals, crypts, mosses, and ferns will do very nicely. Certain stem plants will do ok, but not the majority of them. Carpeting foreground plants are out of the question.

Substrate is issue number two. You can use an inert substrate but it makes fertilizing a bit more finicky. I'd recommend at least some sort of "plant" substrate. There are tons of choices. The cheapest for a monster of that size would be Soilmaster Select.

Terracing is fine. The roots will find their happy places easily enough.

Algae is always a potential, especially if this is your first serious attempt at a planted tank.

Read www.rexgrigg.com. He's a bit brash, but the advice is good.

Oh, and welcome to APC!
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Old 05-06-2008, 09:09 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Getting Frustrated...and Hello!

Hello and welcome Cris,

See the bolded areas below.


Quote:
Originally Posted by C.Anderson View Post
First I'd like to say hello, and thanks in advance for bearing with any impatience and/or irritation I may end up showing in an 'introduction' post!

Now...about me and my tank(s). Currently I have a 130gal freshwater fish tank. The key word here is fish. Recently at a local Petsmart I decided to pick up some of the more attractive aquatic plants they had in. I've owned a few tanks in the past, and was always just disappointed with the plastic junk that was available. Soooo, aquatic plants. The first plant I chose was some kind of onion thing (2 of them)...that's what it said on the plant tab, but I'm assuming that's as reliable as looking at the label on the tank to see what kind of fish is in it eh? It looks like a cross between 'Crinum thaianum' and 'Vallisneria americana' (please don't let the scientific names fool you...I haven't a clue...those pictures are close though). Long thinner leaves, but with a smaller bulb at the bottom. I also bought 3 of what look like 'Parrot Fern' (my current favorite I think), and also multiple (around 12), very cool sword looking plants that I've been told now aren't aquatic, and are for terrariums etc.


These plants replaced EVERY piece of junk plastic in the tank...and I have to say I absolutely love it. The fish seem happier, and the tank is much more natural. I have a nice centerpiece of Mopani, a bit of sandstone, and some accent pieces of Mopani as well. The effect over black colorquartz is pretty nice.

This leads us to my problem. First...I highly doubt that 3m type s black colorquartz, my fish, and a few local fertalizer tabs are going to be enough to support even the relatively small number of plants I have. This has lead me to this incredibly varied world of 'planted tanks'. I'm impressed...but a 'planted tank' as I see most of you guys using the term is far, far more than I need or want for my system lol. My tank is a wall divider for my living room and kitchen. I want and NEED to be able to see through it. I'd be happy with less than a third of the plantings I've noted in some of the incredible tanks I see on this site! Compounding this problem (and actually the cause of it) is the fact that I'm upgrading my 130gal to a 300gal this weekend. The 130 is 72"x18"x24, and the 300 is 120"x24"x24". Since it's coming empty...now is a good time to do whatever I need to do in order to maintain a 'fair' amount of live plants (maybe double what I have now...or a bit more, tastefully placed so as not to reduce visibility too much)...without going overboard. Cost is a minor issue...excepting anything I can buy at Home Depot (basically unlimited company card...small perk of your own business).

So, what it comes down to is this. After over a week of reading endlessly confusing, convoluted...and contradicting posts, threads, and articles...I'm about resigned to replacing dead plants once a month to keep this thing looking how I want it. The questions I have are...do I absolutely NEED C02? I love my air bubblers...with a wall divider tank bubbles through the center are attractive (the wife is demanding this too...her allowing me a tank actually required bubbles lol).

It depends on the type of plants you want. You can also use Flourish Excel as a carbon source, the building block of life, but it is expensive and for tank that size will get costly very fast. In this case you can still have the bubbles. Some plants are not very CO2 (or light) demanding, anubias, java ferns and mosses.

Do I need to put some kind of filler layer of a gravel type substrate under my sand? My tanks are often built up below the water level with sanitized bricks in order to eliminate some of the expense of sand/gravel (I like a lot of varied surface elevation in the bottom of my tanks..high in the center and on the outside edges etc), how is this going to affect planting and keeping the roots happy?

If you use the rhizome plants (see above) and mosses then the roots do not have to be in the gravel. These plants can be attached to rocks or driftwood and are really beautiful when placed well in a tank.

I don't think it will impact things too much as long as I leave room between the bricks for gravel or whatever inexpensive substrate you guys suggest...and it's not like I pave the bottom lol. Last but not least...this 300gal acrylic tank is absolutely immaculate, tha last thing I need is some HUGE algae bloom coming and wiping it out where I've got to clean it continuously!

This is almost 100% of the time going to happen in a newly established tank. Some amount of algae is absolutely normal in a planted aquarium. Flourish excel has some algicidal properties that have yet to be explained but will work for you if you want to use this as you carbon source.

Lighting shouldn't be a problem...I have 4 40w blue actinic fluorescents, 4 40w GE 'Daylight' fluorescents, and 2 LED moonlight strips...I assume this is sufficient?

Not really. The actinics do absolutely nothing for aquatic plants. Also even for "low light plants" (also see above plant list) it is uaually recommended to have about 1.5 watts per gallon. This would mean 450W of 5500 to 10000k full spectrum lighting for your tank.

Anyhow, I know this is a lot of questions (and very demanding I'm sure...my apologies!)...and trust me I'm going to read through as much of this site as I can in order to find the answers! I just have yet, on ANY of these sites...to find any information for the 'casual planter' like me =/.

Please do read as much as you can on the subject. You have a big task ahead of you seeing as your starting with a mini pond in your house. I wish I could do something like that but it would take up half my apartment and besides I don't have enough money in both my and my wifes bank accounts to get into it, LOL.

Thanks in advance guys and gals!!

Your welcome.

Cris
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Old 05-06-2008, 09:15 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Getting Frustrated...and Hello!

C.,

Sorry for the repeated answers, I was writing while Guaiac was answering your questions better than I could.

Jorge
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Old 05-06-2008, 10:07 PM   #5 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Getting Frustrated...and Hello!

You would be really surprised at how many low tech plants are out there. Im starting a low tech myself (no c02 and 2watts per g). If you get schultz aquatic soil its pretty cheap, $7 per 10lbs bag. i have to agree though breakin in on the planted tank with a 300 gallon is a bold move. Just remember with more light means more of everything else so if your not planning on fertilizing on a regular basis dont go about 2 watts a gallon and stick to anubias, ferns, moses, some hygrophila,dwarf sagateria just to name afew. If you scape it right you can have a nice tank with low light plants.
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Old 05-06-2008, 11:01 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Getting Frustrated...and Hello!

First I want to say thank you guys for your quick answers. You've helped me out quite a bit.

After reading your posts I guess my main questions were is it possible to have a 'partially' planted tank so to speak...or is it an 'if you're in, your in...if not, get out!' type thing. I'm starting to think that whether I want 1 plant or 100, it's an all or nothing ordeal!! The second question was regarding substrate. Almost everything else I need to do if I make the big plunge into planted aquaria I can do after the fact. The substrate is kinda now or never, particularly with a 300g tank, and you've helped with that a ton. There are SO many choices...and if you don't know a particular name it's sort of hard to research. Try Googling 'substrate' lol. The Soilmaster Select charcoal seems to be a good fit with my plans, and maybe it's possible I might be able to get it ordered in at Home Depot...making the cost a write off =).

By the way...this kind of setup is what you meant, right:
http://www.plantedtank.net/articles/...-Substrate/26/

If so, that would be relatively easy...and whether I chose to do any real planting or not...the option would be there. I don't usually keep the 'mulm' out of my tank...but I haven't completed my water change this last week, so I could probably just hold off and mix the existing black sand (which is in the 130gal atm...the colorquartz is in bags waiting for the 300gal) up some...then mix that into some of the Soilmaster in order to make the bio mix deal. I could then use the colorquartz as the top cover. I think that would actually cover the substrate for me and lay the groundwork in place for future planting. Just getting me past that has helped a lot...my thanks again.

So...for the next question. If I covered the substrate as listed above. the lighting as advised...and used fertilizer sticks to help with growth per plant...is there any way at all to get around the C02/bubble issue? What I mean is...do I need a certain amount of C02 per plant, or is it actually per gallon of water? The reason I ask is depending on the 'losses' induced by the bubbles, is it possible to overcompensate by injecting more C02? So far it seems the most expensive part of C02 injection is the setup. After that the gas is extremely cheap. The fact that I can setup C02 to run through my cannisters is nice too...and makes it easier to do after the tank is set up. I'm not real enamored of the idea of constantly adding chemicals in order to keep the plants alive. I worked for a long time before to make my fish tanks almost care for themselves...both in fauna choice, and filtering. Monthly water changes were about all they needed...along with occasional media swaps. I know an even lightly planted tank will require more care than that, but I'm hoping that with my few plants I can still get away with bi-weekly attention.

Anyhow, thanks again for all the help. It's more appreciated than you can imagine. I'm not a person who usually tries to do things halfway. I just didn't realize exactly how complicated throwing some plants into water to grow is. It's worse than fish!!

Cris

Last edited by C.Anderson; 05-06-2008 at 11:16 PM..
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Old 05-06-2008, 11:13 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Getting Frustrated...and Hello!

Oh one other thing. Here are the plants I've bought already. The 'parrot fern' ones and the long onion things seem to be doing ok...with no fertilizer etc (it's only been a few weeks, I'm SURE this will not last!). The others are the ones that aren't really aquatic so I'm told. Any chance you guys recognize these things?


Not a good picture of the onion lol, there's actually a narrow white bulb on it just below the sand line. Lots of critters pile the sand up in that spot.


Sword looking things to the left, fern to the right.


Forgot this cactus grass looking thing, and another of the odd sword looking plants.
Please ignore the roman ruins...the wife 'had to have them' until I turned her on to the sandstone that matches the mopani lol


One other bit of good news...with my contractors discount at Lesco...I get the Soilmaster Select Charcoal at 12$ a bag after signing up online at Lesco. Turns out they have 6 50lb bags in stock at our local store as well so I can pick it up this week to be ready for the big tank this weekend.

Thanks again!!

Cris
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Old 05-06-2008, 11:35 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Getting Frustrated...and Hello!

The plants you showed are not aquatic. They will die.

With low light and plant fertilizer I don't think you need to do CO2. I had a planted tank for years without CO2. I used root tabs. I had the recommended amount of root tabs. It wasn't until I went to high light and difficult plants that I needed CO2. I used the crypts, java ferns, anubias, Vals, etc. They grew fine. I did have to do water changes. I also had inert substrate.

I think you can accomplish the see-through need you have by keeping part of the tank open at the top with short plants in certain areas. In other areas you could have paths between tall plants. The variety will make it interesting.

I do think the air bubbles will work against your plant growth. It may be that the air bubbles will make CO2 necessary. It wasn't until I gave up my "air wand" that my plants did well. Why not show your wife the beautiful tank pxs here with out the air bubbles and see what she says? She may just like them. You could use mosses tied to things with the current (power head) blowing on them to add movement in the tank. It's probably the movement and life that she is drawn to. The plants can be swaying in your tank.

Good luck. I'll keep watch to see what happens.



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Old 05-07-2008, 06:06 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Getting Frustrated...and Hello!

Getting enough CO2 into a 300g tank to make a difference is difficult on a good day. A 20lb cylinder would last only 3 or 4 months. You could go bigger, but they're a real pain to manhandle and keep out of sight if you go too big. I really don't think you'd be able to use a bubble stream either. Too much gas would be wasted unless you stuck with something small.

Also, injecting CO2 into a canister filter at this scale won't work. You'd need a pretty rapid stream of CO2 and I think you'd find most of it coming out the filter undissolved. I'd recommend a series of diffusors or an in-line reactor of some sort.

Honestly, considering what you're trying to do, I'd avoid CO2 and stick with less demanding species. I kept a very nice tank without CO2 before upgrading.

Congratulations of finding the SMS. It's often hard to locate.

Avoiding high light and CO2 will probably allow you to keep fertilizing to a minimum. Root tablets would suffice just fine.
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Old 05-07-2008, 06:07 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Getting Frustrated...and Hello!

Quote:
Originally Posted by jmontee View Post
C.,

Sorry for the repeated answers, I was writing while Guaiac was answering your questions better than I could.

Jorge
Jorge, not at all!! I feel like appologizing to you for ninja posting. There's great value in hearing similar advice from more than one person.
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