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It's my view that often the problems that the people that are new to this hobby experience are a result of very simple mistakes. Things like wrong lighting, inacurate test readings and such.

Lately I haven't checked the pH of my tanks as often as I used to. I found that I check if the bubble rate is consistent and if the plants look good. I know that with a KH=3 and 1 bubble per second I get no less than pH=6.7 in my 55 gal tank.

That led me to think that a beginner may benefit from simple advice like setting the CO2 at certain rate instead of running tests with a cheap pH test kit or even a probe that could be off. Of course with such an advice there is a lot of assumption going on. But if the tank hardware is good and things are not running as they are supposed to often the solution to the problems is much simpler than we all think.

Another common problem that I think many people overlook is the loss of CO2 due to turbulent water movement. That is another thing that a beginner must pay attention to. Again - a simple approach.

I'm far from trying to say that one can come up with a foolproof way to run a planted tank. But certain things could definitely be presented in a simpler way for the beginners.

Do you see my point? Any opinions?

--Nikolay
 

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I agree in principle.

I really have no desire to be involved in a scientific analysis of how my tank is running every day, or even every week. I have a hard science background and I still get intimidated by all the measurements and tables and calculations going on.

I think it's great that people are working their tanks like this and building the knowledge base, but it is awfully intimidating for beginners. It's easier for a beginner to try a somewhat proven setup and make educated corrective measures for problems that develop than to try to enderstand the nitty-gritty of what's happening.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I like the idea of KISS.

Jason
 

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I think beginners become intimidated by all the jargon, but it really isn't all that difficult to run a tank. There are only a finite number of factors you have to worry about:

Light (have 2-3 wpg PC, beginners! more if you have normal flourescents)

CO2 (I wish I had gone to pressurized CO2 in the first place, but yeast CO2 works very well with smaller setups... also realize that you need some sort of reactor or diffuser to get the most out of your CO2...keep surface agitation to a minimum)

Nutrients:

NPK -->

N is Nitrogen, you get it from Potassium nitrate aka KNO3... keep this level at 5-10 ppm (Aquarium Pharmaceuticals has always worked for me
P is Phosphate, you get it from KH2PO4 aka Potassium phosphate... keep this level at 0.5-1.5 ppm (Seachem test kit works well for this one)
K is Potassium, you get it from K2SO4 or KCL aka Potassium sulfate and Potassium chloride respectively... don't have to test for this one.

Then you have your Fe/traces. Flourish, Kent, etc. I tend to dose these until you no longer can see any improvement in your plants by adding more. Example: 20g with 3 wpg gets ~10 mL Flourish weekly. For 2 wpg, start with 5 mL. For 4 wpg, start with 15 mL.

Does that's not too bad. Just takes a little practice. :)

Carlos
 

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Aside from the great points you folks have already brought up, the tip I pass out the most to people new to the hobby is a simple, non technical one:

Take your time!!

I find that people are too quick to do things. They don't spend enough time researching and learning. They rush out to purchase equipment and then throw it all together. Minutes later those aquariums are filled with plants and fish.

I think the best way to proceed is slowly and deliberately. Take your time and do your research. Read articles in magazines and online. Learn about the plants you want to keep. Read up on the equipment you plan to buy. Participate in forums and discussions. Join your local aquarium society. There are always people there happy to help steer you in the right direction.

Once you have all of your information, I am certain any newbie will be able to go ahead and set up an aquarium with confidence....and success!

Mike
 

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Another thing new people need to consider is their tap water. Find out what's in it before adding ANYTHING to your tank. Alot of cities and states have web sites with water composition, and if you call and ask they are required by law to send you something that also has a complete breakdown.

Don't go adding NO3 until you've seen that you need it, or any macro nutrient for that matter. NO3 is the most troublesome nutrient, IME. Much more so than PO4 or Iron.

HTH
 

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Folks,

You've all presented such great points!

I think a lot of beginner problems could be avoided if the person takes the time to read and research basic care requirements. However, this requires some premeditation. Most of the time, plants are an impulse purchase with little or no guidance from the LFS. As a result, we see so many people with posts like, "Help Algae!!".

I think the Estimative Index from Tom Barr is a pretty good approach for beginners as long as they understand their initial tap water parameters. However, for Tom's method to work, the tank should have more than a couple of swords and a bog plant in it.

So what are some key things a beginner should do in order to optimize his chances of having a good looking aquarium if they are on a limited budget?
 

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If you look at beginner tanks, another thing that I think causes problems is the number of plants they start out with. I think stuffing the tank so that all the floor space is covered is a good way to be successful from the beginning.
 

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i am fairly new the the planted part of the hobby, and would have to agree with you all. and i would like to reiterate one point that was made that i made when starting off. patience. i do not have a lot of it in normal things, and carried that into this. needless to say, many calls to the shrink and dollars later, i figured that slow and easy is the way to go. i don't have to have the best looking tank (for now :twisted: ) but i should enjoy the journey. that, i think, is crucial to being a somewhat successful planted tank geek, imho!
 

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Another lesson I learned recently:
Always look for the simplest problem.
Density
Co2 (big one)
Light
My plants were getting algae and growing distorted, so I thought I had problems with my substrate, or that my water column was imbalance. It looks like I failed to listen to my earlier advice, I didn't plant dense enough in the beginning for the plants to take off.

Not enough plants


A little better,
 

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The worst nightmare is when people expect their newly set up tanks to be running in 3 days. It does takes time ....

Edward
 

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I see people with three sword plants in a 10 gallon tank. That can be a problem. I see people with non-aquatic plants. I see people who when the plants start to die either due to not enough light or the plants not being aquatic plants go to the LFS and get sold a "Magic Plant" bulb. "Magic light" will never make up for lack of light.

I have attempted to write a basic straight forward guide to planted tanks. For the most part I have received nothing but praise for the site. All of the information that I give is out there on the web. The problem is finding it. While I like The Krib sending a new person there to learn about planted tanks is doing them a disservice IMHO.
 
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