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hey everyone, i just found this site b/c i was browsing through google looking for aquascaping ideas. its great so far! now to my predicament! for the past few months i have been experimenting with co2/high lighting, ferts, substrates and different plants but i am not satisfied with the results i get. i have several tanks that can be used (if needs be) to bolster my main display tank of a whopping (lol) 55gals. the stats on my tank now stand at 190watts of light made up by 1 power compact strip consisting of 2 actinite blue bulbs (55watts each), and a double fluorescent strip from home depot its loaded with one 50/50 bulb and another one at 5000k. i use DIY co2 with yeast and i have an assortment of chemicals from kent and from the internet (k2so4, kno3, fleet enema etc...). my pH is 7.0 and i believe i have well water so the mineral content is pretty high (17 drops which i think works out to... around 300ppm).

i am really confused at the moment though as to why my plants are NOT growing like they do in Tom's tanks or the dutch AQ's. my plants usually live and grow really fast but they are not bushy and the shapes of the leaves seem to change from when i buy them in the store to when they have been growing in my tank for awhile. to be more specific, plants like anacharis and other fast stem growing plants seem to grow so fast that the gaps between each leaf on the stem get larger and larger - this makes the plant look very stringy and not at all lush. another strangity i have noticed is... the leaves on this sort of plant and on various others seem to go from being nice and round to very needle-like and they thin out. other then these problems my plants are growing fairly well. i would love some advice on the "ideal" conditions that plants want. i really want to have an aquarium with amazing plants like you see in magazines!! i want to fill in the gaps and make my bare-ish tank look like a jungle. if it helps i would like information on the ideal lighting temps/setup, the best ferts to use, an explanation as to what is wrong with my thinning plants, substrate info and anything else you can help me with!

i am so pleased i found this site b/c almost no one on badman's forums knows anything about plants

thanks in advance! - Michael
 

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Welcome,

First thing I would do is replace the actinic bulbs with 5500 - 6500k bulbs. Actinics do not provide the spectrum plants require for growth. While you think there is plenty of wattage the actual value is much less due to the useless (for plants) actinics.

Also please use the template to give us the tanks parameters.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
i used actinite for my red plants, i believe all plants absorb light primarily from the red and blue spectrum and since red plants reflect red light then they should need more blue?

what template are you referring to?

tx for quick reply!
 

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Welcome to the forum Michael, glad you found us, and I hope you enjoy the information here as much as I do.. :)

I agree with gnatster, I would ditch the actinic and the 50/50 bulbs. I've read that plants actually can benefit (partially) to actinic bulbs. Of course you are limiting yourself when using these and that could very well be one of the many problems you are having with your plants. The first thing you always want to look towards when having problems with planted tanks is the lighting.

I know replacing bulbs can be an expensive task, but there are places on the net who can give you some decent prices (atlantalightbulbs, dr fosters, etc). Even if you can't afford to replace all of your bulbs at once I would suggest atleast replacing the 55w actinic blues. I would definately try to miss-match bulbs when replacing (I.E. 6700k and 9325k, 10k's and 9325, etc.). I run a 55g, 2x65w PC 6700k bulb, 2x15 T8NO 6500k bulbs, pressurized co2. I find with that lighting I am really at about a mid-low light tank. I get quite a bit of shading from the fast growers and get the "leggy" effect you are talking about in your post (the big spaces between nodes). I assume (hopefully one of the board guru's can help out with a more scientific explination) plants do this to try to get closer to the light. I assume yours are probably doing this due to the bulbs that are in the fixtures.

Matt
 

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Red plants do not prefer the blue light any more than they prefer other wavelengths.

Atinics are specific for a certain depth in the ocean that FW plants simply do not ever live at. If you find any FW vascular plants at more than 10-11 meters, you let me know, but if you dive, you will find lots of corals and other things like Macro algae down there.

The light filtering in clear ocean water is much different than the often tannic or turbid waters in FW systems. Most plants live within 1 meter of the surface.

As far as your other issues, CO2, CO2, and CO2.
Get a decent pH kit and KH kit. DIY often have issues getting enough CO2 into the tank.

Work on that. Check the am and pm pH's to see what the CO2 is.
Try and keep the CO2 20-30ppm when the lights are on.

The rest is fairly easy once you do this and are able to maintain this over time.

Many folks use Gas tank CO2 for this reason, it's very stable and easy to deal with vs DIY. With multiple tanks, it becomes easier/cheap since all you do it tee off another needel valve for each new CO2 enriched plant tank you want.


Regards,
Tom Barr
 

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Welcome to APC! I see several problems with your setup that you will need to address. I also see several problems in your plant choices which will need to be addressed as well.

1) Lighting. With 190 watts, you have 3.45 wpg. Even with only 2x55w, you still have more than enough light to grow even demanding stem plants like Rotala macrandra and light hungry foreground plants like Glossostigma elatinoides in such a setup. However, you will have to do away with those actinic bulbs as these are were created for corals and not plants in mind.

www.ahsupply.com sells power compact bulbs rather cheaply. If this were me, I would place a pair of 6700k PC bulbs in that light strip in the back and use a Coral Life Trichromatic/GE Aquaray (a "pink" bulb) combo in the front.

2) Keep up on the CO2. With this size tank, I hope you are at least using two bottles fed into an efficient reactor.

3) Fertilization. The road to success with red plants, although perhaps partially due to lighting spectrum and intensity, is mostly due to fertilization. Ludwigias, Rotalas will color up in tanks with low nitrate levels (5-10ppm), high phosphate levels (1-2ppm), and regular doses of iron/micronutrients with a commercial liquid fertilizer (such as Kent).

4) Plant choice. A lot of the plants you are purchasing, if they are changing form in your aquarium, are emersed grown. There is nothing wrong with emersed grown plants. You will just have to do some research on the particular species you are purchasing to know if it will be the 'right' plant for your tank. Also, some work has to come from your part. All plants will eventually reach the surface. To get bushy plants, try topping the top portions of the stem and planting them between the rooted portions with an indispensable pruning utensil --tweezers.

Also, dump the anachris. :)

Let us know if you have any other questions,

Carlos
 

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Discussion Starter #8
hehe i see i am getting some big NO's to the actinites, actually they haven't been in the tank for more then a week, i added them after i talked with a plant friend of mine who used them to grow his red plants. before i added them i had whatever the standard bulb was that came with the PC's.

ill try get those tests tom :) i have seen your tanks and im honored to have you read and reply to my posts! though without having the proper co2 tests the only observation i can make is at one point the CO2 reactor (which is hooked to the intake of a power head) produced so much co2 that my fish were gasping for air until i turned it off and added a bubbler. i can definitely see what you mean about getting a regular amount of co2 gas though, it seems the reactor makes a good 8+bubbles per sec for the first few days then it drops off to about 2/sec near the end of the 1st or 2nd week.

tsunami - i have 3 2 liter soda bottles hooked up to my power head (they can make in excess of 8 bubbles per sec, which i think is too much b/c as i said before my fish seem a little lethargic). lol i actually ended up dumping the anarchis hehe found out it does better in cold water anyways :p you can see my tank at www.freewebs.com/zapins if you want, i recently just got rid of all my plants except the amazon swords, riccia, grass (which i forgot the actual name of at the moment), and rotalla. sooo my tank is pretty bare now - i want to build it properly from the ground up with your help.

1. Tank water volume: 55gal
2. Tank lighting (type, watts per gallon, etc.): power compact 55 watts x2actinite AND x2 40 watt lighting from home depot 5000k and a 50/50 bulb
3. Tank filtration: whisper 3 or 4 its for a 60gal tank
4. Tank substrate: regular rounded quartz gravel
5. Plants: amazon swords, rotala macandra, riccia fluitanis, grass stuff
6. Fish: lots of convict cichlids/their babies, 1 clown loach, 1 rtbs, 2 SAE's, 1 common pleco
7. Test kits used (brand and type): kh, gh, ph, no2, no3, ammonia not sure the names
8. Fertilization regimen (include products used): started using kent 1-0-0 formula 0-0-3 formula 2ce a week, also have tinkered with k2so4, and kno3, and fleet enema in the past but i havnt used them in ages, i inject CO2 via DIY reactor at 3+bubbles per sec
9. Do you CO2? yep
10. Water change routine: 1ce a week 50%, i have well water its very hard ~300ppm
11. How long has the tank been set up? err... long time ( years?)
12. Describe your question or problem in detail: see title
 

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First of all, I would start to fish out those convict cichlids as they aren't exactly plant friendly residents. I would also take out the common pleco as it has a habit of getting too large and also rasping away at your broad leaves plants. I would give the clown pleco some friends as they are social fish --at least a couple more.

Second, from the photos, I see that your plants do need a bit of a pick-me-up. Although they may be growing fast, they aren't exactly healthy, and you will need to start working on that. The Hygrophila corymbosa stems look small and pale --and bottom two thirds of the plant's leaves are falling off. I would recommend adding 5ppm KNO3 and 0.5 ppm KH2PO4 two times a week for starters. As for your iron/micronutrients, add 5mL three times a week of Flourish, TMG, or another iron/micronutrient product.

As the sword plants will be getting too large for your 55g, I would take them out completely. You're going to need more plants --a lot more plants. I recommend going to an online store (www.aquariumgarden.com, for example) and purchasing fast growing stems like Hygrophila difformis, Hygrophila corymbosa "siamensis," Rotala indica, etc to start filling out your tank.

Carlos
 

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Discussion Starter #10
hey thanks for the info Carlos, ill get right on that. btw is the KH2PO4 the same thing as potash of sulfate? if not where do i get the KH2PO4 from? oh also you mentioned adding micro nutrients/iron to my tank, can i use the Kent products since i already bought them a week ago, or are they no good compared with seachem's products? the amazon swords are on their way out! just wanted to tell you that you are the first person to actually agree with me that my plants are unhealthy, pretty much everyone else thought cuz they were growing fast they were all hunky dorry. tx
 

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Zapins,

KH2PO4 is dihydrogen potassium phosphate. You can get it at:

www.gregwatson.com

Remember to use the Fertilator calculator to calculate how much KNO3 you have to add to your tank to raise your tank volume's nitrate level by 5ppm. Do the same for the KH2PO4 (in this case, raise it by 0.5ppm).

If your current Kent products contain a full line of iron/micronutrients, then you're set on that part. Just add it regularly (three times a week) in sufficient amounts (5mL).

Here are some suggested plants to start filling up that tank fast, which you can later replace with more demanding or slower growing species...although they are attractive, IMO, in of themselves:

1. Hygrophila corymbosa "stricta"
2. Hygrophila corymbosa "siamensis"
3. Hygrophila difformis
4. Rotala rotundifolia
5. Ludwigia repens

Also, let the Riccia float to gain some mass. Get these plants growing fast AND healthy, practice your pruning methods, etc. Afterwards, you can start scaping seriously.

Carlos
 

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Discussion Starter #12
alrighty i will buy those as soon as possible. i have an observation on the rotala mac. but first let me tell you how i got it. one of my friends from the petstore dropped it off for me on like thursday or friday and some nit twit at the store didnt know it was a tropical plant, so they put it in the cold water tank which is at like 60F so most of the leaves went bad by the time saturday came around (which is the day i work there). so far its grown tons of roots and its pushing up new leaf stalks all over the place. though the leaves dont seem to be very red, they actually look pretty green to me. i was wondering if this is due to some sort of req. not being met in full, or if its due to the damage it suffered? im thinking its probably the lighting, what say you?

i was also looking on the ahsupply.com site and it doesnt say whether the bulbs for compact hoods are 4 pin horizontal .... or 4 pin bunched like this ::

i also looked at the site for dihydrogen potassium phosphate and they have a lot more chemicals for sale... do you reccomend any of them?

*note- i forgot to mention my other double strip lighting up in my details so i just edited that
 

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You don't need anything else, if you have the KNO3 as well.

The AH Supply bulbs I have are straight pins. However, they do have a phone number and an email. They answer questions very quickly and are very well known among planted tank hobbyists.

The Rotala macrandra should continue to recover --the new growth isn't from past "experiences" but from the growing conditions it's currently in. Switch the lights, start fertilizing, etc and it should begin to turn red. Rotala macrandra can be red with as little as 2 wpg, so not enough lighting is not the reason --perhaps more due to not enough of the correct kind of lighting.

Carlos
 

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Discussion Starter #14
the guy who gave me the rotala mac. actually uses 10k and 8.8k bulbs not actinite. lol my bad. can these bulbs be used as well as the 6700k bulbs im going to order? and how do they compare?

i was also wondering what colour temp the standard PC bulbs are for 2x55watt fixture.
 

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The way to get red plants is through primarly nutrients and CO2.
The best red R macrandra I've seen grown has been 2w gal, 5000-6700K mixes.

The light might make something look different to your eyes, but it does not grow the plants better. A good low NO3 level will yeild reds far better than more light, and more light will make it more difficult to achieve a stable low NO3 for extended peroids.

This has been discussed in depth here and the APD and other places.

10000K, 8800 K etc do not really matter in terms of plant growth. I like the 8800K, they look good and I'll mix these with a 5000K.
Triton's 7200K is a very nice color spread.

The temp does not tell you the spread of energy, atinics are almost all blue, wereas the Triton had much more red in there also.

A bulb with more yellow, greens and reds(a balanced color) will produce more pigments to catch the light than a certain wavelength.

For all the talk about lighting, intensity tends to be the best thing to focus on and what it looks like to your eyes, the plants will make do just fine as long as they have CO2 and nutrients.

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

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...and for compact internodes and lush red macrandra, I would also emphasize how important good phosphate levels are. I and several other hobbyists have found that Rotala macrandra is reddest and most robust when phosphate levels are near 2 ppm.

Carlos
 

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Discussion Starter #17
oh, soo... the standard PC bulbs are fine for my plants? (i think you have just saved me a ton of money :)). also how can the NO3 level be kept down if one of the nutrients i am adding is potassium nitrate? thx Tom
 

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Discussion Starter #19
i ordered the valve from beveragefactory.com and it should come by this Friday. ill get the co2 tank tomorrow and the bubble counter.... still looks a bit pricey (due to the shipping). ill make the needle valve when the other parts get here. thanks allot bob you have pushed me into the next phase of planted tanks :)

one question though, i seem to remember there being 2 dangers to having a CO2 injection system. one being the type of co2 you buy at the refill place, and also the other problem being the end of tank mass-ejection. any thoughts on these problems?

BTW your site was EXTREMELY helpful
thx
-Michael
 

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Discussion Starter #20
just got back from buying the 5 lb CO2 tank- cost 75bucks and then 13 to fill it, so the total is just over a hundred with tax :\ cant wait for the rest of my set to arrive.

-btw are there different types of CO2? any i SHOULD NOT use?
 
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