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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: http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/...er-setup-pics.html?highlight=soilmaster+setup 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: http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/...y-birgit-wolfgang.html?highlight=golden+ratio dealing with aquacaping principles. Carlos has an excellent article on the golden ratio in the apc library as well: http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/forumapc/library/12051-golden-ratio.html . 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: http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/...s.php?id=83&category=genus&spec=Ceratophyllum
Rotala rotundafolia: http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/forumapc/plantfinder/details.php?id=39&category=genus&spec=Rotala
Bacopa caroliniana: http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/...details.php?id=124&category=genus&spec=Bacopa
Bacopa australis: http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/...details.php?id=110&category=genus&spec=Bacopa
Myriophyllum mattogrossense: http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/...ls.php?id=48&category=genus&spec=Myriophyllum
Hygrophila difformis: http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/...ails.php?id=62&category=genus&spec=Hygrophila

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.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
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.

Lightly:

(Photo courtesy of Ian via http://dpnow.com/bb/others.pl?frames=n;read=841)



(Photo courtesy of MatPat)


Moderately:
(Photos courtesy of John N)





Heavily:

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:
http://www.barrreport.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2062
http://www.barrreport.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1
http://www.rexgrigg.com/
http://www.aquatic-plants.org/articles/basics/pages/index.html
http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/...perpetual-preservation-system-new-tables.html
http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/...zing/15225-estimative-index-dosing-guide.html
…And of course, if you do a search here on apc, you will find a wealth of knowledge.
 

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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
 

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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.
 

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Bart H., I was looking at FreshWaterAquariumPlants.com 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?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
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.
 

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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?
 

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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
 

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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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PsYcHoTiC_MaDmAn - Its really up to you, I haven't really heard many people say anything about a noticable difference in plant growth for any bulb in that range, generally speaking the higher the number in that range the whiter the bulb looks and IMO the more visually appealing. You could also go with whatever is cheapest in that range... its really up to you. There isn't a perfect Color Temp though just the range as as a guidline.

I hope that answers your question.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Um... so you are talking some package from somewhere for at the very least 40 dollars, correct?
I really have no idea what vendors are selling or for how much.

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.
I've never really stopped to consider 'how many' stems to put into a tank to consider it light/medium/heavy. It really depends on the plants - typically you would plant the stems so that the distance between two stems equals twice the lenghth of the leaves (to minimize shading).

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?
Here's several options/possibilities. Get the tank you want/can afford, check out your lfs's - a lot of them carry hornwort, Ludwigia repens, wisteria, etc. See what they charge, compare to vendors, imo, our vendors quality is usually better than the lfs's. Keep your eyes open on the for sale forum for good deals or place a 'wanted to buy' ad in the forum. A lot of us throw out a bunch of plants on a regular basis because our local stores don't want them and selling them can be a hassle sometimes. Go with whatever you can afford and make it work for you. If you only have a few plants, make sure you keep your light reasonable. Make sure your CO2/Excel is adequate and your plants needs are met. Your plants will grow and your density will increase by virtue of that. Enjoy the journey. :)
 

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A lot of us throw out a bunch of plants on a regular basis because our local stores don't want them and selling them can be a hassle sometimes.
I take my 'pot of gold' with me when I can to the local fish store and leave the bucket with them. I hope that they eventually give me credit for something (Seachem Excel). Of course it is also fun to hear the staff talk about it when I have time to visit. The young kids really like the quality of the plants that I can bring in. Of course to me it is just Rotala, but then again you should see the tiny 'bunches' that they sell. In a way, they need it more than I do. And I can't yet imagine throwing out my 'pot of gold'. I would bury my 'pot of gold' under my substrate first to create bio-available carbon. Diana refers to it as biological 'fast food' carbon.

Thank you for all the good information. I look forward to the Hemianthus Micranthemoides. Do you know I looked that name up in Merriam-Webster's to see where the name came from and it wasn't there! Where should I look it up? The meaning of the name I mean.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Do you know I looked that name up in Merriam-Webster's to see where the name came from and it wasn't there! Where should I look it up? The meaning of the name I mean.
Don't know. You might try looking for Latin/Greek derivatives. Maybe Cavan can chime in here.
 

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hello to everyone. I have just registered after months of browsing the aquabotanic website. Im from Malaysia and this is the first time I have had a planted tank. I keep some discus in it and it looks great.

The problem im having is that since I am new to live plants I have yet to get it right. My plants seem to be growing but they tend to go into a lighter shade of green. Some even have become yellowish. Especially the sword plants. They are growing and spreading but I cannot maintain or get it to be in the dark green colour when first bought.

I have a CO2 tank. My local pet store where i get my plants think that the temp of the water is too high ( its at about 32 degrees celcius ). They have suggested i tone down the lighting and add a cooling fan.

Any suggestions from you guys would be a great help.

thanks
 

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I think I need to add more plants to all my tanks ! Looking at yours mine are lightly planted to say the least . thank you for posting pics they say more than words !! now if I can find a store that actuly sells more than tall grass and hornswort lol
 

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This is an excellent description of what to do. Very clear. I did have one question, though, regarding
In about 3-4 weeks you will probably want to start replacing some of the fast growers with more desirable plants.
Is it better to go for the gusto at this point and do all of the aquascaping and replacing of the fast-growers with other plants? Or is it better to only replace a few at a time over a period of weeks until the desired aquascape is achieved?
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
s it better to go for the gusto at this point and do all of the aquascaping and replacing of the fast-growers with other plants? Or is it better to only replace a few at a time over a period of weeks until the desired aquascape is achieved?
IMO, gradual changes are always better, especially on a new set-up where the achieved balance may be tenuous at the beginning.
 
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