Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Northampton, MA
Some general ideas about planted tanks
Hi, I am new to the forum but old to the hobby. I've been keeping a planted tank for close to 20 years now. I've had some of my plants almost that long, individual plants that survived for 16 or 17 years.
My first planted tanks were before the internet was a big deal. I had a 55 set up in an apartment with a "plant filter" that was plants growing emersed by a window in a separate sump tank. I also had plants in the tank with no filter.
After this I had another 55 tank in a loft apartment, with huge windows and lots of sun. Now this would be called a lot tech tank but then it was pretty high tech. Had six t8 lamps in a hood I made myself and DIY substrate heating I made by forcing narrow wire into silicon tubing a doing a lot of math. This tank ran for about 4 years.
After this I moved to caretake a house and threw all my plants, substrate and fish into a small backyard pond where they did great. For what it's worth that substrate came from the famous internet faliure pets.com, the one with the sock puppet. I had about 300# of it shipped to me for free. No wonder they failed.
When I bought my house 12 years ago the first thing I did was set up my current 75 setup with T5 lighting, high pressure co2 and, again, no filter. I have Dupla substrate heating and all the plumbing is located in the basement.
After having this tank up for 11 years I took it down to redo it. The substrate had become very clogged with mulum and couldn't be cleaned, it'd turned into a nutrient sink and the Java moss became uncontrollable. After 11 years I figured, time for a redo.
1. a key to keeping planted tanks is to keep the fish stocking level low. food is very nutrient dense and it's really hard to keep a lot of fish an a problem free tank for a long time.
2. Think of light, nutrient and co2 as a triangle. If any one side of the triangle becomes out of proportion to the others you have problems. These things need to be in balance.
3. Inert substrates like Truface and STS are fine. They don't need charging. Plant roots produce o2 and these make little bubbles. As they rise new water is drawn in and "charges" that water. It may take a bit longer but you don't need fancy substrate.
4. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Buy only fish you think you can keep for years. Getting some pleco that is going to wind up huge is just not right.
5. No matter what anyone says t8 is the best kind of light. The tubes have the best lumen maintenance (they last longer) they have better efficiency and the tubes are cheaper and more available.
6. You probably don't need any fertilizer if you don't have well water. In the east most water comes from surface reservoirs and is runoff with all the nutrients you need. You can add more if you like, but it will not make the plants grow faster.
7. Sometimes water changes are bad. In many locations water department inject phosphates into the system as it prevents metal pipes from corroding. By adding water changes to fight algae you're just recharging the phosphate levels.
8. grow some mosquito larvae in the summer to feed your fish.
9. You can keep fish and plants outside in the summer and they'll do well if you do it right, find a shady place. I keep plants in white buckets in the drip line of my roof and they do well.
10. Take your time with new tanks. Don't add any fish for as long as you can bare. It make getting the new tanking stable much harder as you need to take care of the fish, and that's not always helping the tank settle in Get a lot of fast growing plants at first and run it in bare for a couple months.
11. A Hot Magnum is a great, great filter to have. It clears green water fast, you can remove it easily and you can clean the paper cartilages with bleach. Having one of these is a now brainer.
12. You do not need a regular filter at all. The plants have massive surface area that is perfectly oxygenated. It's the ideal place for biological filtration to take place.
13. Make the substrate deep. The substrate is a chemical factory. Areas of various o2 concentration accomplish different things.
14. I have a "surface skimmer" drain on my tank that goes to a sink in the basement. I can directly drain the film of protein goop that collects on the surface. I think being able to do this saves me a lot of grief.
15. Buy goof plants from a local dealer and don't be afraid to support them. We're lucky to have a good aquarium store. I buy stuff there even when I could get it cheaper elsewhere.
16. You need to work with the water you have. What comes out of the tap sets the baseline. RO or fancy filtration methods just get old and tiring. Make the best of what you have.
17. Once you understand your basic water parameters testing is pretty useless. Observing the plants will show you most of what you need to know. Many books tell you how to identify many nutrient systems. Most tests are hard to read anyhow. Let nature be your guide. Your town water dep. should be able to tall you about your water.
18. It's almost impossible to do anything fast. Make one change at a time and observe the results. Give everything time to work. Keep at it and make notes.
19. Plant keeping is a system, not a set of individual instructions. Really, nobody can answer your questions if you don't understand the over arching principles.
If I think of anything else I'll add it later.
Last edited by novitt; 08-08-2013 at 03:24 PM.
Reason: added content