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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,

I'm glad I've found this forum. Although I'm not exactly new to planted tanks, I don't think I've been doing things quite correctly all along. I've had aquariums for many years and my current 33 gallon planted tank has been running in its present format for probaby 4 or 5 years now. Although it doesn't look horrible, it is far from the way I would like it. I think I've made many errors in the way I've done things, and would like your opinions on how to fix it. During the past 6 months or so I have been very neglectful in the maintenance on the planted tank because I have been concentrating on my new reef tank. Now that the reef tank has reached a kind of stability, it's time to turn my attention back to the poor neglected planted tank sitting beside it.

The tank is a 33 gallon - 36" long x 12" wide. The lighting is 2 36" normal output flourescent tubes, one aqua glow and one power glow. The bulbs are very old and desperately need to be changed. Before I do that, however, is this enough light for a proper planted tank? Should I be considering upgrading to power compacts? Or will the normal output bulbs suffice?

The substrate is approx 2" - 3" of fine silica sand topped with 1" to 1 1/2" of natural gravel. I had put peat underneath the silica sand when I set the tank up. I have never really liked this substrate - too thick in many places, the sand and gravel are always getting mixed up, and the colour is too light for my taste. I am considering draining the tank and replacing the substrate with something more plant-specific. The silica sand was based on well intentioned advice from an LFS who thought it would be good for the plants to root in. I guess it's worked okay so far, but I'm thinking something slightly coarser and looser would likely be better. I'm thinking of replacing it with flourite. I imagine I'd need about 3 bags.

The filtration is an Aquaclear 200 I believe. I am thinking this should be upgraded to a canister filter of some sort - probably ehiem. I also keep a hagen 201 powerhead in the corner for additional flow.

For carbon dioxide supplementation I have an inexpensive yeast type setup from Nutrifin, I believe. It's meant for a smaller tank, but it definitely does help when it's running on my tank. I haven't been using it for the past few months, but I got it going on the weekend again. I can't remember the name of the fertilizer I add during water changes, but I'll check it when I get home tonight. I also dose flourish excel during water changes - just a couple of capfuls.

Here are some pictures of the tank as it sits now. I just did a major cleaning and waterchange on the weekend. The large piece of wood is mangrove root that I've had lying around from a previous tank from several years ago. I just put it in to the tank this weekend. It seems to be releasing an awful lot of tanin - more than I had expected. I don't mind a bit of tanin in the water, but it's somewhat darker than I would like. Perhaps activated carbon would help in clearing it up... anyway, here are the pics:

Whole tank:


Left side:


Right side:


You can probably make out in the pics I have a beard algae issue on the driftwood with the anubius on it. It's been there for quite a while, doesn't spread off that log, so it doesn't bother me too much. I would prefer it if it were gone, however. I'm thinking of a drastic overhaul - changing substrate, plants, driftwood, etc. Any comments or advice would be much appreciated! (sorry for the long post!)
 

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Ok. This is a big question. Let me answer it piece by piece. :)

Lighting: 2 36" normal flourescent bulbs will help you grow most of the low light plants (Anubias, Java Fern, moss, swords), but to grow stem plants at their full potential, you'll want to have at least 4 36" bulbs. That, or you could go with a pair of 55 watt compact flourescent bulbs.

CO2: do you have the money to invest in a pressurized CO2 system? You'll need a cylinder, a double-gauge regulator, and needle valve.

Substrate: I am partial toward the plant substrates. Eco-complete is my favorite. Florabase and Flourite also work. You'll want a 3" deep bed of one of these products in your tank.

A big part of this is what you want your planted aquarium to be. Do you want a beautiful aquascape like Takashi Amano? Do you want a high light, high maintenance tank full of red stem plants? Or do you want a lower maintenance tank with slower growing mosses and ferns?

Carlos
 

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Looks like Carlos covered your questions pretty well. Keep us updated on what you are doing with the tank and feel free to ask questions :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the replies, guys! As to what I want the tank to be, I think I need to do some more research - I love the look of a lush, healthy, well maintained tank in the style of Takashi Amano, and I also really love the look of a dutch aquarium, although I think the experience necessary to maintain an aquarium of that style may be quite a ways beyond me. I definitely want to be able to grow stem plants. I'm thinking the upgrade to PC lights might be a good idea. As far as bulbs go, would I want both to be 6700K, or perhaps one 6700K and one 10000K? How often do you need to change the bulbs for a planted tank? I know with reef tanks PC bulbs should be changed every 6 months or so, whereas regular flourescent bulbs generally last about a year - is the spectrum shift as critical with plants as with corals? I'm guessing it is... As far as the CO2, I am definitely considering a pressurized system. It's a bit pricey, but in comparison to the amount that the equipment for the reef tank cost, it's acutally quite reasonable. I've also seen a system at my LFS that uses a block of carbon and produces CO2 by electolysis. I haven't seen that type of system mentioned so far. It's quite expensive, though, and the compressed CO2 system makes more sense to me. Thanks again!

Mike
 

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I would definately get some more high powered lights and a better substrate. I really do like flourite quite a bit. As for Co2, If pressurized is a problem due to cost (and don't I know all about that problem), it might not be a bad idea to just make a little DIY co2 reactor and ditch the nutrafin cannister and use a 2 liter bottle yeast generator in it's place. I'm sure your co2 levels would rise drastically if that step would be taken. It also would only cost you about $10-15 of parts, some research time, some collecting of the parts time, and some labor time. The Benefits would be tremendous over that nutrafin system.

Of course it doesn't get better than pressurized, if you can afford it, the benefits under higher light situations are critical.

On another note, welcome to the forum. I am glad that you are taking more of an active interest in your planted tank. I wish I still had a reef setup. A reef setup next to a well maintained planted tank is stunning.

Matt
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks Matt. I think as long as I take it slow and upgrade one thing at a time the cost should be manageable. Replacing the silly little CO2 setup with a proper DIY yeast generator is definitely another possibility - I'm leaning towards the pressurized setup at this point, but if I can't afford it I'll go with the yeast generator. The reef tank is actually indirectly responsible for my upgrading of the planted tank - researching of the reef tank introduced me to the fabulous world of aquarium forums online - up till then I'd mostly been taking the advice of various LFS's. Now I have access to worlds of information I didn't have before!
 

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Why not light the tank with those bulbs that are half 6700k and half 10,000k? www.aquariumpros.com is selling them. That would be my choice. Either way, both of those bulbs grow plants really well. Once you buy PC bulbs for your freshwater planted tank, you won't have to buy new PC bulbs again until they burn out. I have a couple PC bulbs that are a couple years old, and they still grow plants very well.

As for the CO2 system, the system you describe is the Carbo Plus system I believe. I've never used it before, but it has very bad reviews. I don't think anyone seriously growing plants uses this system.

Carlos
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Those bulbs sound interesting... not a bad price on them, either. That Carbo Plus system seems like a neat idea in theory, but it does seem rather gimmicky. Way too expensive, too. The idea of intentionally having electrolysis going on inside the aquarium seems kind of scary to me, as well. Thanks for all your advice!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Well, I suppose an update is in order... so far I've completely gutted the tank - taken everything out, rinsed the tank out with the hose outside, and put in new substrate - flourite, with a layer of peat underneath it. I even changed the location of the tank in the room - it's no longer beside the reef, but on the other side of the room from it - directly beside my computer desk. I was up until 2am last night (had to get up for work at 6) changing the substrate, and the fish and plants had to live in a rubbermaid tub with a heater and powerhead last night. Today they're back in the tank (they seem happy to be there, too, after their ordeal!) I didn't intend to, but my planting arrangement pretty much duplicated my previous arrangement - I'll attach a pic, criticizm would be appreciated. I'm still likely going to be moving things around for a while until I'm happy with it. The swordplant might have to go if it gets bigger, once everything fills in again. I also picked up new driftwood - I think I'll be moving the piece on the left in a bit... seems kind of isolated right now. The water is still pretty cloudy from disturbing the substrate while planting, etc.



As far as lighting goes, hopefully next week I'll be getting the 2x55w compact flourescent fixture. The DIY CO2 system might have to do for now, the pressurized will likely have to wait until later in the summer (hopefully). Any recommendations as far as how to build a reactor? Also, I plan to upgrade the filtration from the current very old Aquaclear 200 - would a cannister filter be a good idea, or would a good quality hang on filter suffice? Thanks for all your help!
 

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Hi Mike,



Few of my thoughts:

1. I think the rainbows are a little too large for your 33 gallon and may cause problems later. Certainly won't go with the aquascape you can put in there.

2. I think you need to ponder what look you want from your tank. What are you going after? A sparse, nature-like aquarium? A dense forest?

3. Focus on getting your composition set up. I think the Sword plant throws everything off. Also, you may want to combine the driftwood pieces on one side.

4. For reactor, look in the DIY forum for suggestions.

5. I would suggest a good quality canister filter such as eheim.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thank you very much for your advice. I think you're probably right about the rainbows - I've had them for quite a while now, though, they seem happy and are getting along well, but they are definitely a bit large for the tank already. I'm not quite sure what I would do with them if I were to get rid of them, though... wouldn't want to take them back to the LFS... I'd need to know they were going to a good home.
I definitely agree with you about the swordplant... it doesn't look right in there at all... also the lotus plant I have in the front left corner will probably get much too large for the tank.
As far as what I want from the tank... I guess so far I've kind of wanted a combination of things, and that has led to a sort of mis-mash of stuff that doesn't really work well together. I don't expect to create something in the same league as some of the rest of you on here... but I do want something presentable. As far as composition, focal point, etc... I'm still pretty much lost. I need to narrow it down a bit and focus on one particular style. I know I want the back of the tank to be quite dense. I've added some plants since my last post - some sagittarius (sp?) and some hemianthus callitrchoides for the foreground, and some more large hygrophilia and ludwigia repens for the background. I plan to pull the swordplant soon. Your suggestion of combining the driftwood on one side of the tank is interesting... I'll have to try that and see how it looks. I added an Eheim 2213 cannister filter the other day, and am thinking about the eheim CO2 reactor I've seen mentioned on here... sounds like a good unit. Here are a couple more recent pictures - thanks for your advice!



 

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With your rainbows, if you want to replace them with some rainbows that don't get rather large I would look into getting some dwarf neon rainbows (Praecox). Great little fish, show alot of the same characteristics of larger rainbows, and don't get over 2" usually.

Matt
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
How about a couple of gouramis? I particularly like the pearl gouramis, but would they be okay long-term in a 33 gallon?
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Tonight I picked up new lighting - 2 x 55 watt PC with 9325 kelvin bulbs. I had enough points at Big Al's to get it for $100 off, so that wasn't bad. (kind of scary, though, to have accumulated that many points, as I do VERY little of my shopping at Big Al's!) The new lighting makes an incredible difference. The cloudiness is definitely starting to clear - that is, until I dug up the sword plant and the other reddish plant in the foreground. I think that makes a big difference. I still have the sword and the other plant as well - I found a home for the rainbows - a friend of mine from the reefing community has a 90 gallon freshwater setup that they should do well in. He'll take the unwanted plants as well. I was thinking of replacing the reddish plant with possibly some kind of crypt, but I think I'll let things grow in a bit first to see how it looks. I'll probably end up changing everything anyway, so that might be a bit premature. I haven't re-arranged the driftwood yet... I don't really see how the two can go together, as the one on the left has a completely flat bottom. Perhaps I should remove it entirely, and replace it with a plant grouping? You guys make this aquascaping stuff look so easy! I really think I haven't got a clue... Here's a current pic...



As far as CO2, I'm still definitely considering the compressed option. The cheapest regulator/needle valve I've found is here:

http://www.jlaquatics.com/cgi-bin/shopping/jalstore.cgi?user_action=detail&catalogno=cr-pprnv

It's a needle valve and dual guage regulator for $104.95 Canadian... no duty, etc., to have to pay. The only thing I would be concerned about is the needle valve seems awfully inexpensive - I've been warned that adjusting the CO2 without a high quality needle valve is very difficult. Any opinions on this would be much appreciated.
 

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The lighting looks alot better there Mike. And don't you worry, there's others like yourself including me who also am having a hard go at it all. :lol: Never the less, your tank is coming along nicely.

Chris
 

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Mike,

Lighting looks much better. Nice purchase.

On the driftwood, I was thinking of putting them together. Perhaps move the tall one back and move the horizontal one in front at an angle. Then cover the intersecting points with moss or anubias. This should create the look of a substantial object on that side. You can then balance that out with a small piece of driftwood on the right side. Just a thought.

Keep thinking about the design (look) you want and add/trim plants to it. Keep the number of varieties low. Focus on getting all your plants as healthy as they can be.

One of Amano's rules is that plants must be healthy first.
 

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Looking good! I have a hard time limiting myself to just a few types of plants, and as a result, my tank is stuffed full of too many types to count. I think they call that "collectoritus." :lol:
 

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Art,

typically, how much damage is done to a rooted plant after being up-rooted and placed in another position in the tank? Perhaps it'd be easier to answer in relation to how long before you see new healthy growth in the new location?

I think you hit the nail on the head for me as well...#1 is to get healthy plants. And if one is repositioning the plants every wk or so "trying to get it just perfect", that's gotta be counter productive to getting and keeping healthy plants.

Chris
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks guys - I see what you're suggesting with the driftwood, Art. I'll try that and see how it looks. Sounds like a very good idea. If it doesn't work, I think I'll look for a better piece of driftwood - hard to find something that fits well, as the tank is only 12" deep, but 36" long and 18" tall... and the selection is somewhat limited at the LFS's I frequent. For now, I think I'll take your advice, though, and concentrate more on getting the plants to thrive rather than the aquascaping.
 
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