Frank's Planted Tank How-To Mini Novel - The Mini S Returns! New Layout - Page 42 - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #616 of 1095 (permalink) Old 05-23-2012, 06:00 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for your well-thought out post on the subject.

Please bare in mind as well that that particular stream of posts was as well to utilize examples in the extreme to expose one fundamental premise:

Inherently, all methods of growing aquatic plants follow the same fundamentals.

With NPT - I used the commonly, perhaps misunderstood, variables about it. The assumption a new person makes (admittedly, with many planted aquaria) is that the aquarium becomes self-sustaining and requires no maintenance outside of this closed loop ecosystem.

Often this is interpreted by many that the NPT, by way of wording, is a way to create a self-sustained system which does not rely on equipment to do the lifting. People are seeking ways to avoid investment in quality goods to recreate a Nature Aquarium.

However, this is something that is very misleading - in order to fully realize a gorgeous layout (minus say, wabikusa bowls and the like), you have to invest in equipment at some point. Allow me to make a reference to one of my favorite video game franchises, Final Fantasy.

The original Final Fantasy game is very straightforward: you level up to get stronger to beat the bosses and progress. Arguably it takes less skill (but more time) to level up as high as you can to simply over power the boss fight, and it is infinitely more challenging to beat the boss at a lower level.

In order to keep it interesting, many long-time fans will go back to Final Fantasy (the original) and run through the game with a 'challenge,' to not level up except with what experience is provided by bosses. This means you have an extreme low-level run through.

It's arduous and not for the faint of heart or easily frustrated. Likely the end is a much less elegant finish and a "just barely pulling it off," kind of situation with precise calculation and luck.

In many ways, this is similar to the Planted Aquarium.

The use of quality equipment is similar to 'leveling up,' to make the task easier for yourself - and more enjoyable for the majority of people (where as maybe the 1-5% will do the low-level challenge).

Rather than spending time, it's spending money (which of the two, take my money and leave me with my time...there's plenty of money out there, but no matter what we only have 24 hours in a day no matter who we are).

NPT, Low-Tech, even Nano tanks, really these aren't for beginners. They're not even for the intermediate person.

To encourage the spread of planted tanks, we need systems. Systems which are designed for success as quickly as possible - not ones in which you must balance a million different variables to have a prayers chance of succeeding.

However, the fallacy is, hey, you can start one of these with little investment and you can get some kind of self-sustaining or easy to maintain system going.

Why is that a fallacy?

1.) 'High-tech' does not = High maintenance. This is easily the most common misconception. I spend less than 20 minutes a week to keep my "high tech," Nature Aquariums in -perfect- condition. Really, once they're stable you could go quite a while if you are okay with algae on the glass.

2.) Low investment = easy come, easy to quit. If I'm inspired by a beautiful Nature Aquarium - to expect to achieve that with low-tech easily, "on-the-cheap," and without any effort is setting someone up for failure. When it takes months and months and months to realize a layout - most people quit. When they mess up the slightest of variables and get an algae mess in a system that exists "On the razor's edge," then most people quit.

3.) A little investment in quality equipment - even if all you did was get pressurized co2 and an appropriate light, you would save yourself a huge time and emotional problem with dealing with rolling issues that chronically comes up - where as many of the algae issues that are posted even here on the boards, you can easily avoid or remedy with a few quick changes if you have controlled environments.

That's the basic gist, and I'm not saying to go out and spend as much money as you can - I'm saying to make the wise investment in yourself ahead of time and avoid headaches.

So, as for NPT and the like,

Really, I would say this is more for hobbyist experts - something to challenge themselves with, a fun project or something like that. Not for the new person and not for the person who simply just wants a beautiful Nature Aquarium or planted aquarium. The reality is it's not even something that attracts the majority of new people. It might even scare them off!

I will make no claims to say that you can't have a gorgeous aquarium that's "low-tech," or NPT or the like, as someone, somewhere will prove me wrong - but I will say that there are not many, if any at all, which can rival the diversity, ease and beauty possible in Nature Aquarium. Beauty certainly is in the eye of the beholder - and if your interpretation of beauty is different than mine, then of course, you need to follow your path and I will not judge you for it.

The one thing I would say though, is to be careful to say "oh, well this is more beautiful in my opinion because I can do it," do not limit yourself to one thing just because it's all you can do or accomplish at that time - constantly strive to improve yourself and learn technique. Each layout should be better than the last! (This goes for me as well).

A Mental Exercise

Rather than thinking in terms of equipment. Think in terms of "this is my dream layout. And I want to achieve this layout."

From there, think of what you will need to accomplish that - then fill in the blanks. The equipment is only there to help you get there easier and more sustainable.

Fill in the blanks with techniques - learn them, practice them and continue to improve.

That's really the only secret. It's not about constant 'scientific' measuring or precise worry about water parameters or any of this type of thing. It's just about building a basic set of fundamental techniques and then growing from there.

Once you know the basics, you can build and build and build off those and get increasingly complex and pull off master layouts - but not until you understand the basics, and it's not about water parameters - in fact, it's a very rare case for many of the 'best aquascapers,' to ever test anything at all! They just know by looking at the plants! And that's simple! Just check for:

Color - Vibrance & Hue
Growth Rate
Algae Infestation vs. Clean
Holes in leaves or anything?
Browning? Yellowing?

Then the basic more or less comes down to increasing the dosage of a certain fertilizer or making a small change to Co2 rate.

Nature Aquarium - planted tanks, are built on many many small changes over time. A little more of this, a little more of that, small adjustments make huge impacts and it's the sum total of this simple observation that leads to excellence.
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post #617 of 1095 (permalink) Old 05-23-2012, 11:36 PM
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Frank, thank you for your extremely well thought out reply. Any analogy to Final Fantasy is one I'll understand - you're speaking my language (perhaps you picked up on that from my user icon).

I agree with you on both counts: first newbies, like myself, need a methodology that works. The less variables, the less room for error, or even judgment the better off newbies are; I'm a novice and I want a tank that looks beautiful and has healthy plants and fish. I don't care how I get there. That's why I'm so interested in your thread - have you thought about compiling the information into one or two posts without the side-commentary like mine?

Second, perhaps relatedly, is the tank that to some degree, the tank that works is one that is beautiful to me. If that means NPT, that's fine, if that's NA that's fine too.

I think my next tank is going to be a 10 gallon planted. I'm seriously considering emulating your steps to set up a similar tank to see if it works for me or not.
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post #618 of 1095 (permalink) Old 05-24-2012, 07:40 PM Thread Starter
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I'll probably be condensing the information into a knowledge base for another project I'm working on - forum's tend to be difficult to access information one for one: the role of a forum is more about the active conversation and distilling of information via the convo rather than a fixed article-base.

If I were to give you advice, and if you had a limited budget, I would say to invest your money into the soil, additives and supplements - these will save you an infinite amount of time and frustration with proper usage. The glass is just the box that holds it together - that can come later.

For example, you may reference my killing of a complete Algae mess in less than 3 days with 20 minutes a day here:

Really the planted aquarium is very, very easy. It becomes complicated when you try to cut corners and re-invent the wheel - like the Final Fantasy low level challenge. I spend about 10 minutes a week in maintenance less than a minute a day dosing. If you want absolute perfection it's like 20-30 minutes a week and 2-3 minutes a day (after the first month).

There are many examples of other methods here, enough so that people can compare 1 for 1 results. Part of the reason so many other methods came about, like DSM, rather than finding the path of least resistance - such as I've laid out here - is that much of the information only came in bits and pieces and in poor translations. It took two years of compiling the information and hands-on trial and error to formulate and lay out the method for 100% success, 100% of the time when you follow it.

As for Final Fantasy - I've always been a diehard fan. FFXIII is actually one of my favorites - and I've played them all.
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post #619 of 1095 (permalink) Old 05-25-2012, 06:20 PM
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I agree to above post 100%.

I kind of accidentally adopted a 30in foot print over the years. I find that 90% of my personal issues are due to lighting. With 3 tanks with a 30 in light fixtures, I can go anywhere from barely enough light to grow anything to more light than would ever be reasonable by swapping fixtures. On top of that, I have embraced adjustable lighting to be able to fine tune even more, as well as using fixtures (or using multiple fixtures) to have at least 2 stages of light. I went from a high light tank to low light buy a flip of a switch on a tank and it worked perfectly.

I do try my own things but I know that if I can't get things worked out in the first few weeks, it's not going to work. I really enjoy low tech nano's that are colorful and have carpets. It's not just about lighting there, it's about plant choice and some fail, but over time I can grow far more than I ever thought without co2.

I do use time spent per day as my guideline as if something is worth keeping. If I get random algae booms after the first month, I either need to change something or start over. No more fighting too much light, gassing fish, or weekly clean outs of algae mass, unless I am trying something different.

Even the DSM method, that is a great example of a good idea that often doesn't work. I haven't ever had failure but the transition period on many plants is too long so it's almost like starting without any plant mass. I will use it on hard to plant species like HC or to keep slopes but I find it usually is a slower process, even when it works flawlessly. I think the only time it' really is worth it is when you have a rare or unknown plant that you can't get more of and need the plant mass.
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post #620 of 1095 (permalink) Old 05-26-2012, 09:42 PM Thread Starter
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Hello my friends,

I have just started a new blog dedicated to aquascaping and the planted tank

On it, I will be showing all of the methodology I use - all of the success tips and mental strategies so you can be even more successful.

I'd like to extend my invitation for my first introductory posting, as the week goes on, I'll be adding in new content and highlighting certain key questions to answer.

Look forward to speaking with you more,

-Frank Wazeter
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post #621 of 1095 (permalink) Old 05-28-2012, 03:51 PM
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I just wanted to say Thank You. As a life long "reefer" trying to get through the planted tank learning curve, I've found this thread to be very valuable.

Thank you for sharing your time and knowledge - Subscribed.


The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man. - George Bernard Shaw

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post #622 of 1095 (permalink) Old 05-28-2012, 08:14 PM Thread Starter
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Welcome to the Planted Tank side of things! Please feel free to ask me any questions you may have.

I also made an update post to tumblr,

In it, I'm starting out at ground zero - what is aquascaping. For a laugh, click on "read more" and scroll to the first photo you see.
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post #623 of 1095 (permalink) Old 05-31-2012, 03:58 PM
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Hey Frank,

I am new to this site and planted aquariums. I really enjoyed reading your How-To thread and plan on implementing a lot of the ideas into my own tank (which is not up yet). This thread was really useful and the detail you went into and answering others questions was really nice of you.

I just have two quick questions and I can not remember if you addressed these over the 40 odd pages.

1). Do you use a heater for this tank? If not, how does it stay warm enough, through the light?

2). When you are dosing the Green Bacter, Brighty K, ECA, ect. how do you know how much to dose? Are there directions included with each of these? Is this based on tank size, co2, lighting, plant density, ect?

Again thank you for the very informative and interesting thread!

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post #624 of 1095 (permalink) Old 05-31-2012, 05:37 PM Thread Starter
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Hello Mitch,

Thank you for your kind words and support. I am glad that I have been able to assist you so far.

For your questions:

1.) I do not use a heater. I have lived in both Seattle (cold) and Houston (hot), and the use of a heater or chiller has never been necessary. 72-78 degrees is about optimal for the nature aquarium, and this is achieved naturally with room temperature, even when the room is as cold as 45-50 degrees or as hot as 85-90 degrees.

2.) I know how much to dose based on experience. However, directions are written with each box and each fertilizer.

The basic premise is you start out with small amounts (except Green Bacter - start with 5 drops), and then slowly increase the amount as the plants need it. You can tell this factor by things such as yellowing, holes in leaves etc. If you see these things simply increase your dosages. If you get too much algae, stop dosing everything except Brighty K and remove algae, then in a week resume dosage levels.

You can find everything at my store:

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post #625 of 1095 (permalink) Old 05-31-2012, 08:11 PM
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why do you recommend stopping everything but brighty k (potassium?) in the even to algae?
im curious as to why not stop everything, or continue everything; what makes the brighty k different?
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post #626 of 1095 (permalink) Old 05-31-2012, 08:15 PM
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Originally Posted by @marko@ View Post
why do you recommend stopping everything but brighty k (potassium?) in the even to algae?
im curious as to why not stop everything, or continue everything; what makes the brighty k different?
I can only theorize that it's because normal levels of potassium don't contribute as much (if at all, I know I dose extra in my 20L) to algal growth when nitrogen and phosphorous are absent or in limited supply but still helps the plants use up the other excess nutrients.
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post #627 of 1095 (permalink) Old 06-01-2012, 02:12 AM Thread Starter
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Freph is on the right path.

Of all the nutrients - potassium does not contribute in any way to algae growth. It's also the one thing that Aqua Soil really lacks. So by striking a balance between Aqua Soil and K, you then help balance the nutritional supply in the tank - choking out the algae.

When used in conjunction with Phyton Git (attacks algae / helps plants attack algae) for example, you deliver a powerful 1-2 punch to algae. Add in Green Gain after a trim, and you've got a 1-2-Knockout.

It all comes back to :

Healthy Bacteria = Healthy Plants = Healthy Fish.
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post #628 of 1095 (permalink) Old 06-01-2012, 02:40 AM
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Hi, Frank
First of all, your tank is amazing. I admire your knowledge and skills. I have been following this thread for a while. I have similar set up. I have been building my tank and dosing similar. I have 6 Gallon. Archaea's 27w light. Pressurized CO2 with diffusor. Zoo med 501 with lily in & outlet. I have been keeping ph around 6.4~6.8. Kh 2 Gh 3~4. Temperature around 74. I have been doing water change on time. My light is on 8 hrs a day. I have aqua soil but did not add any substrate additive. I have similar plants.. HC/hairgrass/riccia.
I am not good with dosing fert. I am using ADA step 1, brighty k as you suggested. Also green bacter every time I change water. I am pretty much following your guide.
So I am on my fifth week...riccia is doing good and pearling. Hairgrass is sending runners. HC was doing ok. So, I was introduced to Special light. I started dosing and alternating between step1 and special light with one pump per day. Man. The result is amazing. The growth increase extremely. After a week of dosing one pump of special light and step1 two pump of brighty K, I decided to up the dose (just testing to see what would happen). I up the dose to one pump of step1 and special light and two pumps of brighty k. After two days... I started to have BGA on my HC. It is covering my new leaves. I did a 50% water change right away and manually removing the BGA.
My question is... and I over dosing? I know you mentioned the law of min. Maybe I am short on a certain element.
I need your expert advice. I am here to learn. Thank you for any advice and your time,
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post #629 of 1095 (permalink) Old 06-01-2012, 10:08 PM
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Maybe it's the filter.. zoo med doesn't really create enough flow in the tank.. shopping for eheim 2211 today.
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post #630 of 1095 (permalink) Old 06-01-2012, 10:22 PM Thread Starter
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Hey David,

I'll answer your questions in detail when I get an opportunity (container has me pretty busy right now).

But we do have 2211's available at !
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