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Bert H 03-18-2006 05:30 PM

New Tank Setup Guide - Parts 1 and 2
There are certain things that newbies are often told when they first set up a new tank: make sure you plant heavily; use fast growing stem plants; keep your CO2 levels high; do not use too much light, etc. I thought I would try to tie some of these things together and give a basic ‘how-to’ which might be helpful to folks.

To prepare your substrate for planting, look at this thread: for MatPat’s pics on how to set up your substrate. It is an excellent step-by-step guide. He shows how he did it using Soilmaster, but the same methodology can be used for a variety of different substrates.

Positioning your hardscape, such as wood or rocks is strictly a matter of taste, so I will leave that up to your imagination. Some basic things to consider are the rule of thirds, and the golden ratio. We have an excellent article by Birgit and Wolfgang in the apc library: dealing with aquacaping principles. Carlos has an excellent article on the golden ratio in the apc library as well: . Keep in mind that a lot of what you plant now will be removed in a couple of months, so don’t worry too much about your aquascape at this point in time.

Here’s a list of some fast growing stem plants to consider when setting up the tank initially, and a link to them in the plantfinder:
Ceratophyllum demersum:
Rotala rotundafolia:
Bacopa caroliniana:
Bacopa australis:
Myriophyllum mattogrossense:
Hygrophila difformis:

The stems should be planted so that there is a distance of two leaves’ width between the stems you plant. Such that the leaves from one stem just barely touch the leaves of the neighboring stem. Except for C. demersum, all the rest of these plants can be planted in the substrate. C. demersum has no roots and it will have to be weighted down, wedged against something or left to float in the tank. Sometimes it is difficult to keep stems in the substrate without them floating up on you. I find it helpful to keep the leaves in the bottom part of the stem which you actually plant. This helps to keep the stems in the substrate.

Part II to follow - will deal with the initial planting, lighting and first ferts.

Bert H 05-23-2006 05:42 AM

New tank set up - part 2...
OK, so now that you have your tank, substrate and hardscape in place, you are ready to start planting!

When setting up a new planted tank, you’re often given the advice to ‘plant heavily’ from the beginning. What is ‘planting heavily’? IMO, this is a concept which new folks find really difficult to grasp. ( I know I did :) ) A better way to describe it is to ‘plant densely’ right from the start. Here are some pics showing different levels of planting from light to heavy.


(Photo courtesy of Ian via;read=841)

(Photo courtesy of MatPat)

(Photos courtesy of John N)


This is my 50 I refer to below -

(Photo courtesy of Guaiac boy)

With regards to lighting, it is best to start out with moderate levels. By this, I mean a photoperiod of 9-10 hours with light levels in the 2-3wpg range. In actuality, 2.5 wpg in tanks over 20 gals, will grow a huge number of plants. I have a 50gal breeder tank which is lit by a 96W ahs light kit and a separate 30W strip, for 2.5wpg. I maintain E. triandra, and H. micranthemoides as sods for my right and left side foregrounds with no problems. (See my pic above) You don’t need a ‘laser beam’, so to speak, to have a decent foreground. :)

IMO, keeping light levels reasonable at the start is a major factor in an algae free tank. There seems to be a mentality among many aquarists that the higher the light, the better it is. Certainly there are folks out there with 4-5wpg with beautiful tanks. The thing is that with these kinds of lighting levels, you have very little room to make mistakes. If you forget to dose ferts, or your CO2 drops some, you will be rearing an algae farm before you realize it. One of the easiest factors in algae control is maintaining moderate light levels.

Next make sure your carbon source is good, either via CO2 or Excel. Fertilize right from the beginning so your plants have all they need to get off to a good start. Personally, I would start with half the fert levels on day 1, bringing my levels up to full level before the end of the week and my first water change. Subsequently, I would dose normally.

Perform weekly maintenance and you should be off to a good start! In about 3-4 weeks you will probably want to start replacing some of the fast growers with more desirable plants. Of course, if fast growing stems are what you like, then keep them! :) The point is to enjoy your tank with a minimum of hassles.

Of course, the above is all geared towards a typical EI maintained tank. If you choose to go the ‘El Natural’ style, check out that forum for another way to do things. :)

Here are some links to sites with some more basic info:
…And of course, if you do a search here on apc, you will find a wealth of knowledge.

finfollower 05-24-2006 05:41 PM

verrrry helpful for me as I now know how dense I need to plant my new tank(still looks lightly planted according to pictures) :D thanks bert

Jimbo205 08-26-2006 10:29 PM

Bert H., thank you very much for this sticky!

I will be referring to this again and again. I am printing this one out!

There seems to be a mentality among many aquarists that the higher the light, the better it is.
I have heard this over and over again at ALL the local fish stores.

Jimbo205 08-27-2006 03:02 PM

Bart H., I was looking at and they have a plant assortment package for a 5-10 gallon tank with 11 plants for $19.94

Would this be densely planted enough for a 10 gallon aquarium, if one were starting new?

Bert H 08-28-2006 05:01 AM

It's difficult to answer this without knowing what's included. My guess would be to say, no, as far as 'densely planted' goes. A couple of such packages would be much more likely to fit that bill, imo.

PsYcHoTiC_MaDmAn 08-28-2006 05:13 AM

what about light spectrum.

not sure whther to go with Triton/tri plus bulbs or Daylight plus bulbs.

i think their 8300k and 6500k respectivly

redstrat 08-28-2006 07:22 AM

That lighting sounds good, if the K values are right. Generally shoot for something in the range of 5,000Kelvin - 10,000Kelvin color temps. Any mix in that range is good too.

The 50/50 bulbs are the ones to watch for as they are usually 10,000k mixed with Actinic for marine reefs. They just aren't the greatest for plant growth, if your going to spend the money why not get the best thing you can for a similar price?

PsYcHoTiC_MaDmAn 08-28-2006 01:33 PM

yeh i know, just cant decide which 1 to go for.
they have the 50/50 there, but the 2 bulbs i'm looking at were either the tri-plus or daylight-plus, which 1 would give better plant growth

Jimbo205 08-28-2006 04:34 PM


My guess would be to say, no, as far as 'densely planted' goes. A couple of such packages would be much more likely to fit that bill, imo.
Um... so you are talking some package from somewhere for at the very least 40 dollars, correct? (plants only, not including tank, lights or any other equipment to start)
More importantly, when scanning the vendors on APC which is the minimum package (# of plants and $ amount) that you are talking about for someone to start from scratch.
Sorry for trying to be so specific, but in retrospect I am trying to figure out if I had to start all over again from the beginning (scratch) and start all over, if I would actually be able to do it considering how little funds I had back then.

Would you recommend to flat broke college students / similar flat broke hobbyists to start out with Nanos and slowly build up their plant collection until they had enough for a larger tank?

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