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Need advice on my 10 gallon tank intended setup

2815 Views 7 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  dawntwister
Hi alls,

I need some advice on my 10 gallon tank setup. This will be my third attempt at a tank(the first one was an enthusiast's dream:spell disaster, the second one right beside the first), and also my second attempt at a naturally planted tank as well. My theme is low maintenance, as I'm setting this tank up for my brother, who has little time. From the many threads I've read, my intended setup is as follows. I would like some advice and any pointers if there are any mistakes.

substrate: (from bottom to top)thanks to DWalstad, Aaron T, and rs79 for their threads/posts and quite a few others whose names were purposely written to escape me
1.1/4" laterite
2.1" topsoil/potting soil with no fertilizers mixed in with red clay;potting soil moistened and aerated
3.decayed leaves(dry and crunchy) and crushed shells
4.1" fine sand, or small black gravel
I would like to add iron and lock the substrate in, but realize that future planting efforts may be impeded by disturbing the then required thick substrate, so I've decided on an unlocked substrate without the iron, as the plants can only use it when broken down anaerobically.

water column: (freshwater)
Tap water treated for chlorine and chloramines. I will not be using water column ferts however, I find that I may have to dose potassium for plant growth if I recall correctly, and some electrolyte like calcium for fishbody osmosis. 25% water changes weekly at tank startup. I'm also thinking(daring) to add an extremely small amount of aquarium salt, iirc the recommended dose was per 5 gallons, I'm thinking of doing it per ten gallons. I know it may be harmful to plants, but would also like to provide a healthy aqua for fish/shrimp, hence the lowered dose.

plants: (all were chosen only for their aesthetics) Please forgive the copy and paste from my wordpad "research" document.
1.Java Moss (Vesicularia Dubyana);low light
2.Riccia Fluitans;bright(at least 2 watts per gallon)
3.Glossostigma (Glossostigma elatinoides);bright,h:3-4 cm
4.Dwarf Baby Tears (Hemianthus callitrichoides);bright(2 watts per gallon),low grower
5.Heteranthera Stargrass (Heteranthera zosterfolia);bright,h:20"
6.Anacharis (Egeria najas);hard/medium,h:80 cm
7.Sagittaria, Dwarf (Sagittaria subulata)bright,h:8-16"(6-8" average)
8.Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis);1.5 watts per gallon,h:20-50 cm,w:15-25 cm
9.Giant Crypt Wendtii, Red (Cryptocoryne wendtii);medium to bright(2 watts per gallon), h:14-16"
My tank will be densely planted.

betta splendins
red cherry shrimp
cardinal tetras
All will be fed spirulina 20%

uv sterilizer linked to powerhead via sponge filter. I'm still trying to figure this one out, I'm so used to a powerhead HOB filter.

t-2 lamps. Also new to this, I'm used to the manufacturer bought hood and light, which I've read is about as useful as a spork. I suppose I'll have to buy the hood fitted to my aquarium dimensions. I've absolutely no idea how this all is going to fit in with the filtration.

Thanks to all.
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Hello and welcome to El Natural. It's good to see that you are excited about doing a planted tank, and a 10g is a great one to learn with. I have to tell you though, that your plan is not an El Natural tank. I think if you add all of those elements and aren't dosing CO2 and using high lights (for super fast plant growth), probably all those things aren't going to be taken up by the plants. If not, then it's just hanging out in the water column at high levels. There's a danger of iron poisoning (metals and layerite aren't needed at all with soil). Shrimp are very susceptible to metals in the water. Even plants that use iron can be poisoned from too much. I don't know how to quantify that, but metal and layerite sounds like way too much. You could also have a bacterial explosion with added dead leaves which would lead to high ammonia and nitrites. That could foul your tank and kill your fish. A natural tank gets it's own fertilizer slowly and naturally from fish food/mulm. If you want to add like 1/2 an oak leaf after soaking it for a week to feed the shrimp, it would probably be ok to put it in on top of the substrate or in a food clip. On the one hand, I think it's great that you want to experiment and have read lots of cool things others have done (one at a time and with established tanks probably). But if you try to put it all together, I think you'll be disappointed. I'm wondering if you've read the how-to here at El Natural. That would help you a lot. All you need are plain dirt, a gravel cap, maybe a bit of shell, 20-30 watts regular flourescent light for your 10 gallon, and some water movement from a small powerhead. You can buy the CFL equivialent for whatever fits in the hood, just go by the 'replaces a X watt light' rating. A UV filter is good. A sponge filter could be useful the first 4-6 weeks, but after your soil adjusts to being submerged, it might be competition for the plants as far as using the fish's natural ammonia for fertilizing. I'd wait to add the shrimp until then, too. Looking at your plants, I wonder if you really want a high tech set up. That's a whole 'nother ball game. Maybe that's the direction you are really headed, and that's cool too. They are lots of work but beautiful. I'd say try a real El natural tank with easy low-mid light requirement plants and lots of them to start. #2-4 Glosso, HC and Stargrass aren't well suited to EN. Salt isn't good for your plants. It's generally recommended for people who keep fish without plants. Your proposed inhabitants don't need it. Good water conditions are met by plants growing well. Plants will be your primary filter. It's hard to figure out what advise fits regular planted tanks (higher tech) and what advice is for El Natural. And most people have experience as fish keepers before planted tank keepers. I didn't so had to learn it all with my first beta nano tanks. This forum and DWalstad's book helped most. If you go with EN, it's really the easiest. I think that's what most of us here like about it. Sorry to bear bad news; I myself have been disappointed and frustrated by a bad start and had to redo. I wish you well.
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After reading all your ideas I thought to myself....that doesn't really sound low maintenance to me. What about just using pond sand for a substrate, its natural and plants grow great in it. I would use low wattage light, stick to plants that are low light like the marcilia minuta, and java fern/moss, anubias, rotala rotundifolia(indica),etc. Then you won't need to fuss with co2 or a bunch of ferts. That's if you truly want low maint.
After reading all your ideas I thought to myself....that doesn't really sound low maintenance to me. What about just using pond sand for a substrate, its natural and plants grow great in it. I would use low wattage light, stick to plants that are low light like the marcilia minuta, and java fern/moss, anubias, rotala rotundifolia(indica),etc. Then you won't need to fuss with co2 or a bunch of ferts. That's if you truly want low maint.
If you use pond sand be careful. Rs79 got bitten by something in the sand. Where gloves and put boiling water over it in a bucket.
Thank you all for the helpful posts. I feel I should clarify myself a bit more; I intend to setup a low maintenance tank, and realize that the El Natural is the best method to do so, and that puts me into my dilemma. I'm setting this tank up for my older brother as a means for him to have a form of relaxation other than his current negative habits. When I initially setup the 10 gallon as my first planted tank, moreso as a reaction to his impulse plant buying from the local Petsmart, he actually sat down and watched the tank. It has to be low maintenance because he works two jobs, and has very little time, yet at the same time, he likes and of course does not realize that those beautifully aquascaped aquariums require dedication, moreso than a low maintenance tank can provide. So I, after reading a lot of very informative threads, decided to piece together what I thought to be best for my situation, even if it means a little maintenance on my behalf.

The laterite I'll keep out, I thought to use it as I had some left over. I was thinking of using the new t-2 lamps, for their brightness and also their consequential aesthetic lighting; I'm a bit concerned as I've read that too much bright light not supported with co2 may actually be harmful to the plants. I'll keep the aquarium salt confined to a quarantine tank for the sake of plant health. I was thinking of still adding the leaves though, because I'm not going to add anything to the tank except plants until they're well established. I want the environment to be supersafe for any live creature I put in there. And yes, sometimes I do laugh to myself when I realize the extremities I have before me, a low tech aquarium with a high tech visual appeal, and not just any live creatures, frail ones like shrimp to boot. Wow, what else can find its way into my juggling circus act.
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When I had a 10 gallon tank I only used flourish excell. Besides lighting it is the most important item that plants need to grow. Lighting is easy and cheap to obtain for a 10 gallon tank.

Aren't you going to add fish? If you are doing the walsted method you need fish to fertilize the plants.

Plants that I have had great success with are java fern and hornwort.

This is why a non-co2 tank can have success without co2 being injected or using ferts:
In non-co2 the rate of growth is such that the fish waste alone is enough to supply the needs for the plants. If we added more light then the CO2 would start becoming a more limiting factor and allow algae to grow better (algae need higher light to grow well in non CO2 enriched systems whereas the plants are much more limited without CO2). A lower light level is required, generally about 1.5 to 2w/gal is good.
I noticed you mentioned Crypt wenditti. It will also do well in a low light, EN tank. Most of the commonly available crypts will.
Some info I have collected
A good substrate can unlock (dissolve) the iron for plants , and keeps it out of the water column.

Soil has NH4. High amounts cause algae. Boiling il for a few minutes changes NH4 (ammonia) to NO3 (nitrates).

Soil peters out aprox. 6-12 months. Thus some pert ferts in the soil by putting it an empty capsule. One lady put rabbit poop in the soil.
Major advantages for laterite (and other iron bearing aquarium substrate materials like 'clayey' soil) is to be an INITIAL source
of iron (and possibly Mg) and to be a long term sink for phosphates. Laterite, soil and aquatic sediments will chemically bind with phosphate.

Phoshpate imbalance can cause algae blooms so perhaps some laterite in the soil is good.

If my info is incorrect correct me. Sharing info is beneficial to broaden the mind, which inadvertently keeps us healthy.
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