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Ask Ken, come & pick my mind.

4355 Views 26 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  ryuken168
Since the AGA contest I get many questions on the 10 gal and other. I decide to direct all question under this topic for all to share. For all that email me at [email protected] can post your questions here. I will try my best to answer all questions about anything you need to know. I'll even found you that perfect piece of driftwood needed for your tank.
Beside me, there are a few people on APC that has more experience then me so they can help out too.
So here I am, ask away...........

Thanks in advance for sharing your questions.
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The *all encompassing* (almost) question

But really...
Could you please go into detail on the substrate, filtration, water changes, ph, dh, lighting, fertilization, C02 injection etc on this tank?
The beginning of my 10 gal.

The 10 gallon was designed around a piece of Malaysian driftwood that I brought at my LFS. It was a piece that had height, swimming holes, caves and a branch.
At the same time Eco-complete black substrate came out to the market.
I decided eco over the others for the color and the size of 2mm and less.
It took about a little less than 30 lbs of eco in the 10 gal. w/ 2 inch front and 3 inch back.
Eco was like a muti vitamin all in one super pill. Most of the plants were fast growers as you can see from the picture I attached.
The down side of eco is the algae problem when used w/ slow growing plants or ones that take along time to take root.
I have used over 80 bags of Eco this year and will not recommend it unless you have full tank of fast growing health plants.
I don't even bother dosing w/ Eco since the plants grow fine without Flourish. The only good thing is the pH buffer and my pH is 6.8.
I now use Este natural color gravel like the 4.5 gal tank in my gallery.
and dose root tablets for more control.
I never used flourite until the 2x 55 gallons and no algae problem and great outcome. The picture are on the APC gallery.
Next part will be the filtration and equipment I used for the 10 gal. and more on that driftwood.


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I have a ten gallon tank right now that I will be redoing soon with flourite substrate instead of just gravel. I have been looking for a decent small piece of driftwood to stick in there, but so far no luck. Your tank looks so much bigger than a ten gallon when I see it in the photo. How do you manage that? Are there any fish in the tank?
hey ken, if possible, can you post, link etc a time laps evolution of your tank with dates. Thanks!
redirecting a question.

captainGregor said:
I found that ryuken168 (Ken) had setup some beautiful looking tanks. One of those won an award on AGA (

I would like to ask Ken some questions and hope that everyone will benefit from it.
I am starting a 10G setup that I want to look just like Ken's (I hope)

Here are questions that I have:

1. What do you think about HOB filters such as AquaClear for this setup - it does not create much agitation if I keep water level up there?

2. I have bought the CO2 system with ladder diffuser (fermentation type from Hagen I think) do you think that that would be sufficient?

3. I know you have used a piece of drift wood and petrified wood. I know that something has got to be on the left and on the right of the tank for the plants to be that high, where is which piece and how did you fasten plants to it?

4. Where would I go to get the plants that you used? LFS? online?

5. Lighting. I currently have an incandescent strip where I can put 1 or 2 CF bulbs. I have 2 23W 5000K bulbs, but I was leaning toward using either 1 23W or 23W + 11W. Since they are facing opposite directions, one side of the tank may be lit with 23 and another with 11. Do you think that would not be good or with such a small tank that would not matter?

All in all it would be great to read a recipe from you. :D

Filtration & CO2

Filtration I used for the 10 gal is the Aquaclear 2000 powerhead and a small Aquaclear prefilter. The powerhead has a flow rate of 158 US gal and was a close-out at Big Al's for $7.99 and only they carry the small prefilter. The only media I use is floss and bio-balls inside the tube. The bio-ball is used in maintain the cycle when changing the floss. The great thing about this powerhead is that it has a nozzle on top to control the air going into the impeller. It's not like the other ones with the air tube on the output which bypass the impeller. The Aquaclear 2000 disfuse the co2 into fine bubbles when it hits the impeller.
I first removed the plastic air control nozzle shaft and replace it with a tetra tec check valve. I cut and attach a airline tubing the same length as the plastic one I removed. I then attach it to the outlet of the valve and the other end into the powerhead. After that I attach a silcone tubing from the inlet of the valve to the yeast bottle.
I have done away with the yeast set-up since I hate changing the mixture every week. I now use a 20 lb bottle with a co2 regulator and a 3 way splitter for each one of my tanks.
The yeast mixture is not too constant so a co2 system is a good investment.
A complete system will run about $150-200.
10 gal set-ups you can also try the Rio aqua pump. I just brought a few to try out and they are quiet and very small, also works great.
they are the Taam Rio Aqua Pump model Mini 50, 90 or 180 pump and the flow rate is 60-100 gph.
I have not try or own a HOB filter, but if you can keep the water level high and lower the surface movement then it may work. So Greg only you can answer that question.
I've set-up one of those Hagen CO2 systems in a LFS. They work well in a small tank like the 10 gal. I try it on a 30 gal and only the plants near the diffuser grew faster.

Plants wise I would check out since most seller sell home grown plants. But for common type plants try your LFS.
I'm about to place a order with Florida Aquatic for a project in a week. So I might be able to help, just email me a list of what you're looking for and I get you some prices.

The next part of the topic is lighting, then I'll get back to the how to of the 10 gal.

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Sir_BlackhOle said:
I have been looking for a decent small piece of driftwood to stick in there, but so far no luck.
I have since taken down the 10 gal a month ago. I wanted to try a different set-up. I was think about auctioning off that piece of driftwood along with the attachment of Xmas moss, lace fern and tons of petite nana on aquabid. Funny thing is I think I can get $200 if I was to auction that piece.

I had bigger plans for that driftwood and the 10 gal limited me to work aroung the space. So now that piece of driftwood is in a muck larger tank that I'm working on for the ADA contest.

I have a few nice Malaysian driftwood pieces in my basement that might work in for your 10 gal set-up. Let me take some pictures and post it on the sell trade board.
I will go into detail on the placing and preparing of the driftwood in the design part of the topic.

Re: The beginning of my 10 gal.

ryuken168 said:
I never used flourite until the 2x 55 gallons and no algae problem and great outcome.
Hey Ken,

So is it possible that certain algae problems in tanks that are less than 50 gallons are caused by the usage of flourite? If it is not yet a fact, but theory, I could try a little research on that. But if you know for sure...please let us know the details. I'm wondering why I get algae attacks sometimes. Fortunately they go away.

=) Massive water changes.
Ken , et al,
I think adding enough plants to any gravel from day one is a huge key for any type of planted tank and not something that is the fault of the substrate itself.
A couple of tanks did not get plants for a couple of weeks in some of the Ecocomplete tanks I did awhile back. But I did not find it a problem and more than any other substrate(I set up a Flourite tank right next to the Eco complete).

But I think anyone that wants to set any planted tank should pack the heck out of their tank right off the bat.

This is one of those pieces of advice that way too many folks over look.
Cheap plants can always be added till the rare or pricy ones grow in.

Tom Barr


Their are other factors to consider to and somethimes planting enough doesn't always work.
Growing your own plants for use in a new tank is a plus. Since the plant starts to using up nutrient on the get go.
But for people who gets their plants at LFS or mail order sometime they are not in the best condition. They need time to recover and take root so algae will alway wins when using nutrient rich gravel like Eco.
Eco is the only substrate that I see algae attach itself onto the substrate and I don't see that problem w/ Flourite.
This is from experience also w/ Flourite and Eco side by side. I also plant the hell out of both tank. The Flourite tank had slow growing plants like Nana, Ferns and Crypo and the Eco has cheap plants like Hygro, Glosso and Indica. Both had excellent lighting and good amount of co2. The flourite set-up didn't even have algae on any of the nana leaves without using any algae eater. The Eco tank just came out of the algae stage at a few months and endless hours of cleaning.

I'm not saying that Eco is bad, but it's not for beginners who depend on LFS for their plants. I don't have algae problems either in my own tank which I grow my own plants. But for large tanks which I use Eco and need to order plants from OA or FA that is a different story.
In the beginning I had nothing to compare it too. But now after using other types of substrate I know the difference.It not a walk in the park.
Trust me, I have more to loss then anyone on this board with Eco, since I'm in talks w/ Betsey Moore at CaribSea for sponsorship.
I think CaribSea needs more R & D to get slow time release on their nutrient rich substrate.
But when your plants take off Eco is the way to go.
I also try pre-washing the Eco before adding it to the tank, it help keep the algae manageable.

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Re: The beginning of my 10 gal.

So is it possible that certain algae problems in tanks that are less than 50 gallons are caused by the usage of flourite?

I can only tell you from experience that I don't have problems w/ Flourite.
One thing I did is pre-wash the hell out of the flourite before using it and used Eco right out of the bag. If you have problems w/ algae using Flourite than it should be attaching onto the flourite itself. If the algae comes and go than it's not your substrate.

One last thing

OK, I join this site to talk about Aquascaping. Now my topic is getting off track. Aquascaping design is what I know and that is what I came to share on my free time. Everything else is base on fact from trial and error from setting up tanks.

Wow! Thank you Ken for such informative post. I can't say I am a professional yet, but I'm getting tempted in trying out the eco substrate. Sorry to take this thread ofcourse. Accept my humble apologies.
10 Gallon setup by Ken

Let's get back to the aquascaping!
Ken, we got the idea on the CO, the filtration, and substrate. Let's talk about lighting. Please see my question about CF bulbs and discuss you lighting comparing to that. Also please explain why you lifted the lights on a clamp above the tank.
Also, did you use simple thread to fasten the plants to your driftwood?
Did you plant all of them at the same time?

As far as plants prices, I wanted to follow your recipe for the 10G and get the same species. It would be very helpful if you could remember or estimate how many of each species of plants you bought. I could retype all the species names here for your convenience here (will take them from AGA site)

For all who are asking questions on the hardware (CO2, lighting, substrate) of Ken's 10g, I think you will be disappointed to know that copying his hardware exactly will not result in an automatically beautiful tank and healthy plants, even by copying the exact species of plants he uses. It takes maintenance, time, and pruning to get it that way.

The tank pulls its charm and beauty from the design, not the hardware or software.

Ken, did you set up the tank deciding where the focal point should be? Or did you just figure things out as it went. Trying to get things back on track.
Back on track

Thanks Carlos,

I apologize for the delay, been busy working on the 350+ gal plant tank.
I will show you all some pictures when I take them tomorrow.
Let's talk about lighting. Please see my question about CF bulbs and discuss you lighting comparing to that. Also please explain why you lifted the lights on a clamp above the tank.
The light I used in the 10 gal. set-up CF clamp on light from JBJ lighting.
The bulb was 36 watts at 6500 k. with a small reflector. Somehow the mirror reflector was not bright enough, so end up adding a 18 watts CF clamp on light on top of that.
Now if I have a choice, I'll only use AHSupply CF lights, they are amazing.
The good thing about clamp on lights is easy access and no lost of light from glass canopy or unclean glass.

I will begin the aquascaping topic on Thursday, I need to finish some stuff for my friend Bartek.

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Re: Back on track

ryuken168 said:
I need to finish some stuff for my friend Bartek
Bartek Lipczynski ?
Do you feel that the a good deal of the "success" you have had with that fantastic aquascape is due to your plant selection?

I think that in a smaller aquarium, or in an aquarium you want to make appear larger than it is, requires the use of plants with smaller leaves. Those plants give the illusion of greater size and depth.

It seems you may have consciously (or unconsciously) agreed with this supposition.

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