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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 05-09-2013, 12:48 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2013
Location: Ontario, Canada's
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New to planted tanks

So I have kept marine tanks for 18 years now and had a variety of basic freshwater tanks over that time as well. I have recently upgraded my marine tank to a 400g which has left my 120g tank sitting empty. My wife has decided that since the 120 is built into the wall and will be there until the next renovation we (I) should make a planted tank. I have never done planted tanks before and have lots of questions. Also my wife would like the tank cleaned and presentable in the next 2.5 weeks before a big gathering at our house. I realize that means no fish but hopping plants by then.

The tank is 120g. 60" long x 18" deep x 26" high. For lighting I plan on using overdriven t5ho and can use between 2-6 54w bulbs as that is what the DIY fixture already over the tank has. So first question how many lights should I use?

Second question is substrate. When reading threads on this I see there are many options and many opinions on what to do. Part of why my wife wanted to go freshwater was to keep the costs lower. To this end I am looking for a suggestion on substrates that will give me a good base for any standardly available plants, long term support and a minimal cost.

Third comes filtration. Since the tank was marine it is already drilled with an overflow box. I would like to use this overflow to feed a sump/filter box. What type of filter should I use? I was thinking the water would first hit a sponge or floss mechanical filter and then could pass over submerged bio balls? Or should I trickle filter over the bio balls? Ho much filtration area should I have? Would a 25 g tall tank with the mech/bios be enough?

What flow rate do I want in the tank returning from the sump? I plan to split the return to as many as 8 ports, as I already have a manifold in place.

any other key things I am missing?
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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 05-09-2013, 01:33 PM
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Well,,I might consider a layer of plain potting soil (no additives like pearlite,etc) about an inch and a half to two inches deep,followed by a sand cap of equal depth.
This would be fairly cheap and provide the plant's with nutrient's from soil for a time (maybe a year or two).
Can also add a small amount of dry fertilizer's (aquarium Macro/Micro package) each week or every two week's if no plan's for CO2 injection (CO2 would require more frequent dosing of fertz).
I would absolutely purchase as many plant's as I could afford.Preferably,some fast growing plant's along with some slower grower's if desired.Planting the tank heavily from the outset,,will help keep algae at bay.With large plant mass that is growing,thriving,,algae will have tougher time. I(f planted heavily enough,,could also add a few fish slowly) over a few week's,as plant's will happily consume ammonia produced by a few small fish and use it for growth.Ditto for nitrAtes.
I would use no more than two of the 54 watt T5's at the beginning,and place the light's on timer to receive no more than eight hour's of light during first few week's.This will also help keep algae to minimum.(can slowly increase duration after a few week's).
Would not be as concerned with bio-media as I would mechanical.
Plant's are excellent biological filter's .
If tank is more of natural planted affair,or low tech as some call it,,then flow from the return to the tank would not need to be more than 4 or 5 times the volume of tank each hour.If CO2 injection is planned,,then flow may need to be increased to help disperse the Gas throughout the tank more evenly,thouroghly.
Hope some of this help's.
Cannot stress importance (To me), of planting heavily from the start.
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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 05-09-2013, 01:48 PM
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Location: Newbury Park, CA
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Sounds like a good idea to me. Planted tanks are pretty.

Plan a strong hardscape and no matter how lightly planted the tank is it will still be a nice element in the room. I picked up rocks from around my yard and hiking area and daughter has a friend with lots of dead wood on the ground. You don't need to go for big bucks on wood, can put together your own arrangement if you just take the time to plan something based on a few key points. There are loads of threads here on scaping, here is one you might look through. The Aquascaping Design Checklist

First off, CO2. Yes or no? You have flexible lighting and if you decide to go low tech just use 2 bulbs perhaps with a mid day burst of a couple more bulbs. If you decide to use CO2 then you could use 4 bulbs for most of the day and 6 for a couple hours. Here is a guide on setting up a low tech tank with references for further reading.

For cheap if you want a natural colored substrate pool filter sand has a very good appearance. I really like the appearance of the Safe T Sorb I just added to my substrate and it is probably cheaper as you might need all of 80 pounds of it at $5 local or $10 shipped for 40 pounds where you would need several hundred pounds of the sand. Either way use root tabs to fortify it and done. STS is very light weight and can be frustrating to plant in at first. It is also dusty, pool sand is cleaner.

I use submerged media in the sump. Keeping the agitation down helps keep CO2 in the water.

Planted tanks do better with more water movement than one might expect. There are always dead leaves and fish poop to be moved to the filter and water movement gets nutrients to the plants. We aim for 10x tank volume per hour. Try for a circular flow rather than chaotic. My returns and drain are near one another so water shoots across the top third, hits the far wall and flows down along the bottom half of the tank back up to the overflow box. Since the returns are near the surface the plants aren't much blown around and I see all the leaves moving on all the plants indicating water moving past them at a good pace. If you have a chaotic flow debris might remain suspended and drive you nuts. If a return is at mid point it might flatten the plants and drive you nuts. Imagine you have valves controlling how much goes to each return, it will go fine.

I have about 6x tank volume at the moment going through the sump only which seems to be okay with the biological filter. Am using a 40 gallon sump on a 180 gallon tank and have loads of extra room. I used to need that for evaporation but currently am running the tank covered and lose no water to evaporation so suspect a 25 gallon tank would be fine if you are covering the tank. I didn't care for bioballs though many like them, am far happier with sponges and no longer have issues with green water.
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